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Hot chocolate for brain health? This warm beverage can actually improve your memory

Hot chocolate

(NaturalNews) Most people will agree that there are few experiences more enjoyable than relaxing with a nice cup of hot chocolate – especially on those cold and dreary winter days.

But did you know that there are other benefits associated with the popular beverage, besides its rich flavor and comforting qualities?

A Harvard Medical School study found that drinking two or more cups of cocoa daily can improve memory and even protect against "mental decline" in older people.

Study details

The research involved 60 subjects with an average age of 73. The participants were given two cups of cocoa daily for 30 consecutive days, and were instructed not to consume any other chocolate products during the study.

Before the research period began, participants were evaluated using MRI and a series of mental tests to measure neurovascular coupling in the brain.

Neurovascular coupling is a term that describes the relationship between blood flow and neural activity – poor blood flow in the brain affects neurovascular coupling.

Although none of the subjects involved had dementia at the beginning of the study, nearly one-third of them displayed impaired neurovascular coupling. These 18 subjects also had some damage in the white matter of the brain caused by restricted blood flow.

Surprising results

At the study's conclusion, nearly all the participants were found to have improved neurovascular coupling. Only five of the subjects still displayed any impairment.

In addition to improved blood flow to the brain, the participants also showed significant improvement in memory.

Before the study, participants were given memory tests that were completed, on the average, in 167 seconds. After the study period, the average time of completion was reduced to 116 seconds – a 30 percent improvement that was displayed among all the participants involved.

Other research with similar findings

Another recent study found that a certain cocoa extract may actively fight Alzheimer's disease.

From MountSinai.org:

"A specific preparation of cocoa-extract called Lavado may reduce damage to nerve pathways seen in Alzheimer's disease patients' brains long before they develop symptoms, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published June 20 [2014] in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (JAD).

"Specifically, the study results, using mice genetically engineered to mimic Alzheimer's disease, suggest that Lavado cocoa extract prevents the protein s-amyloid- (As) from gradually forming sticky clumps in the brain, which are known to damage nerve cells as Alzheimer's disease progresses.

"Lavado cocoa is primarily composed of polyphenols, antioxidants also found in fruits and vegetables, with past studies suggesting that they prevent degenerative diseases of the brain."

In this study, three different cocoa extracts were given to the mice. Among the three, the lavado cocoa extract was found to be the most effective at reducing As oligomers.

These two studies, along with several others, provide strong evidence that cocoa does indeed improve memory, and may be effective in fighting the onset of Alzheimer's, but there are other significant health benefits associated with cocoa and dark chocolate consumption.

Dark chocolate has been shown to improve cardiovascular function and may also fight diabetes and obesity.

To reap the full health benefits of cocoa, make sure to purchase organic dark chocolate or cocoa that has been minimally processed. Avoid "Dutched" cocoa extract:

"Our finding of protection against synaptic deficits by Lavado cocoa extract, but not Dutched cocoa extract, strongly suggests that polyphenols are the active component that rescue synaptic transmission, since much of the polyphenol content is lost by the high alkalinity in the Dutching process."

So, the next time you prepare yourself a nice cup of hot chocolate, you can enjoy it even more with the knowledge that you are helping your brain and body to perform at their best.





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