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A Delicious Way to Sharpen Your Mind

Chocolate on the brain

Daily cocoa may sharpen the mind

Research published in ‘Neurology’ suggests a couple of cups of hot cocoa can aid brain functioning. A team from Harvard randomly assigned 60 people (with an average age of 73 years) who did not have dementia, to drink two cups of cocoa every day for 1 month. The result showed improved blood flow to the brain of participants. People who experience improved blood flow performed better on memory tests, implying blood flow to the brain effects memory and thinking.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science supports these results. They found drinking hot chocolate can help people think clearer too. The flavonoids in cocoa increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers believe cocoa could play a role in the treatment of dementia. The flavonoids also assist the body to process nitric oxide (responsible for increasing blood flow by dilating blood vessels and conveying information between cells), which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health. Flavonoids also help prevent platelets in your blood from becoming stagnant and fusing together forming clots.

Who would have thought it cocoa (chocolate) is an antioxidant. According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration of cocoa is two to three times stronger than that of green tea. However Professor Chang Yong Lee, the leader of the Cornell study, stressed the importance of “hot” in “hot chocolate”. More antioxidants are released when the cocoa is heated up; it also contains less fat (if it is good quality not an instant brand).

A cup of hot cocoa contains 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE). The antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal haemorrhages, albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine, which may indicate kidney disease) and diabetes.

Cocoa and chocolate consumption in moderation elevates mood. Cocoa is rich in agents that enhance the production of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Therefore cocoa possesses mild anti-depressant, mood-elevating properties, when taken as part of a balanced diet.