Tag Archives: cocoa

Can drinking cocoa protect your heart when you’re stressed?

Increased consumption of flavanols – a group of molecules occurring naturally in fruit and vegetables – could protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart disease and thrombosis, according to new research.

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Researchers have discovered that blood vessels were able to function better during mental stress when people were given a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols than when drinking a non-flavanol enriched drink.

A thin membrane of cells lining the heart and blood vessels, when functioning efficiently the endothelium helps to reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumor growth, thrombosis, and severe viral infectious diseases. We know that mental stress can have a negative effect on blood vessel function.

A UK research team from the University of Birmingham examined the effects of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function – publishing their findings in Nutrients.

Lead author, Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, explains: “We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes”.

“Flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress) we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods.”

In a randomized study, conducted by postgraduate student Rosalind Baynham, a group of healthy men drank a high-flavanol cocoa beverage 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task.

The researchers measured forearm blood flow and cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress and assessed functioning of the blood vessels up to 90 min post stress – discovering that blood vessel function was less impaired when the participants drank high-flavanol cocoa. The researchers also discovered that flavanols improve blood flow during stress.

Stress is highly prevalent in today’s society and has been linked with both psychological and physical health. Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure (BP) in healthy adults and also results in temporary impairments in the function of arteries even after the episode of stress has ceased.

Single episodes of stress have been shown to increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events and the impact of stress on the blood vessels has been suggested to contribute to these stress-induced cardiovascular events. Indeed, previous research by Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-investigator on this study, has shown that people at risk for cardiovascular disease show poorer vascular responses to acute stress.

“Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols – particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress,” commented Dr. Rendeiro.

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Can Drinking Cocoa Make You Smarter? – Study

The answer to that question appears to be – Yes.

The brains of healthy adults recovered faster from a mild vascular challenge and performed better on complex tests if the participants consumed cocoa flavanols beforehand, researchers report in the journal Scientific Reports. In the study, 14 of 18 participants saw these improvements after ingesting the flavanols.

Previous studies have shown that eating foods rich in flavanols can benefit vascular function, but this is the first to find a positive effect on brain vascular function and cognitive performance in young healthy adults, said Catarina Rendeiro, a researcher and lecturer in nutritional sciences at the University of Birmingham who led the research with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign psychology professors Monica Fabiani and Gabriele Gratton.

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“Flavanols are small molecules found in many fruits and vegetables, and cocoa, too,” Rendeiro said. “They give fruits and vegetables their bright colors, and they are known to benefit vascular function. We wanted to know whether flavanols also benefit the brain vasculature, and whether that could have a positive impact on cognitive function.”

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Nutrition and chocolate – Tufts

I am a big chocolate lover, both mildly dark and milk chocolate. As I eat some every day, the following from Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter interested me greatly.

chocolate with milted chocolate on white ceramic plate

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Q. You have suggested people eat chocolate to get the antioxidants and other “good stuff” that it contains. Do we get the same benefits if we eat chocolate in another form, such as chocolate milk, cake, or pudding?

A. Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, senior scientist at Tufts’ Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, answers: “Cocoa contains phytochemicals called flavanols that may have health benefits, but just because a little might be good, that does not mean a lot is better! Flavanols are part of the reason cocoa is so bitter. To make chocolate candy, many of the flavanols are stripped away, and the cocoa is mixed with sugar. Turning that chocolate into brownies or pudding or other chocolate products further dilutes out the flavanols. Hence, there is unlikely to be much actual cocoa or cocoa flavanols in a serving of these foods. In a recently reported large study, chocolate-candy intake was associated with greater likelihood of weight gain in postmenopausal women. Whether the weight gain was directly due to the chocolate cannot be determined at this time.”

“If you enjoy chocolate, identify the type you enjoy the most and don’t overdo it. If it’s healthful flavanols you’re after, there’s no need to eat chocolate or cocoa at all. They are also found in tea, wine, and fruits like apples, grapes, and pears. And remember, an ounce of dark chocolate a day (or a dose of any other purported ‘superfood’) cannot take the place of a balanced, healthful dietary pattern.”

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Why chocolate is good for your gut – MNT

I am a chocolate lover. I have some every day of my life. Granted, what I consume are small quantities which I devour slowly and let simply melt in my mouth. I also know that dark chocolate has more benefits than the sweet milk chocolate of my childhood. Herewith, Medical News Today‘s take on the dark delight.

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Chocolate lovers, rejoice; the sweet treat is not only delicious, but studies show that it can also promote friendly bacteria and reduce inflammation in our guts. But first, some background: trillions of bacteria live in our guts. They contribute to our immune system, metabolism, and many other processes essential to human health.

When the delicate balance of microbes in our intestines is disturbed, it can have serious consequences.

Irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, allergies, asthma, and cancer have all been linked to abnormal gut microbiomes.

A healthful diet supports bacterial diversity and health, but could chocolate be an integral part of this?

Benefits of cocoa

Cocoa is the dry, non-fatty component prepared from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree and the ingredient that gives chocolate its characteristic taste. Continue reading

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Hot cocoa and caffeine work positively for your brain- Study

As a big fan of coffee in general and the mocha drink in particular, this study struck a positive chord with me.

Deep down, we always knew it, but science is proving that cocoa and caffeine are indeed the best marriage ever. Clarkson University researcher Ali Boolani recently completed a study that explores the powers of these two dark delights.

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The assistant professor of physical therapy and physician assistant studies teamed up with colleagues at the University of Georgia to examine the “acute effects of brewed cocoa consumption on attention, motivation to perform cognitive work and feelings of anxiety, energy and fatigue.” Continue reading

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Dietary Flavanols Reverse Age-Related Memory Decline

“When we imaged our research subjects’ brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink,” says lead author Adam M. Brickman, PhD, an associate professor of neuropsychology at the Taub Institute.

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Dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults, according to a study led by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) scientists. The study, published in the advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention.

As people age, they typically show some decline in cognitive abilities, including learning and remembering such things as the names of new acquaintances or where one parked the car or placed one’s keys. This normal age-related memory decline starts in early adulthood but usually doesn’t have any noticeable impact on quality of life until people reach their fifties or sixties. Age-related memory decline is different from the often-devastating memory impairment that occurs with…

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