Doctor’s Orders: Have a Cup of Cocoa a Day

828353_79331045A new study released in the August 7 issue of Neurology possibly found a new preventative measure for aging adults fighting memory loss and dementia. No, it’s not eating a greater quantity of healthier foods and exercising – although that helps! Researchers found that seniors who drank two cups of hot cocoa every day for a month performed better on memory and thinking exams than those who didn’t have the chocolaty drink.

The study included 60 people with the average age of 73, all of whom did not have dementia. For 30 days, the individuals were asked to consume two cups of hot cocoa each day, but refrain from eating any other chocolate for the duration of the study. Of the patients studied, 18 of them had impaired blood flow at the start of the study. Before partaking in the study, researchers also conducted MRI scans, which revealed that those with impaired blood flow had small clusters of brain damage compared to those with normal blood flow.

According to previous outside research, chocolate, and most notably dark chocolate, has many health benefits that can reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, lower risk of stroke and benefit individuals with cognitive impairments.

By the end of the study, researchers did MRI scans on the brain once again to find that those with blood flow impairments at the start of the research showed improvements by more than 8 percent. Blood flow to the brain helped individuals improve their times on memory tests. In fact, the average score dropped by more than 50 seconds by the end of the study.

“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow,” Dr. Farzaneh Aghdassi Sorond, study author and associate neurologist at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement. “This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Researchers continue to work on finding the exact property in cocoa that boosts brain power and how it works in the body to improve cognitive ability as well as other aspects of health. Some believe that the blood vessels may change in the body, which in turn increases blood flow.

If you are considering adding regular consumption of chocolate to your daily intake, you need to look for a chocolate that is at least 70 percent. The darker the better, some say. For a sweet treat, you can eat it with raspberries or strawberries, both of which contain antioxidants as well.

Chocolate and dental health
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is noted for its abundance of flavonoids and antioxidants that promote health benefits. Dark chocolate is actually so rich in antioxidants that it is a powerful remedy for bad breath, and it promotes good overall oral health. The properties in the treat fight anaerobic bacteria, which cause bad breath and other oral health ailments, and help to prevent dental plaque from forming on the teeth. Chocolate also reduces inflammation in the body, which means that it can fight gum disease because a symptom is swelling of the gums.

While eating several candy bars a day in addition to drinking hot chocolate probably isn’t going to promote good oral health, consuming a moderate amount on a daily basis can have positive effects. The recommended intake is 1 ounce each day, which is equal to about six Hersey Kisses. Dark chocolate has a high fat content, but it contains healthy fat, unlike sugary alternatives like white chocolate, which will promote the accumulation of dental plaque. Hey, maybe in 10 years the saying will go, “A dark chocolate bar a day keeps the dentist away.” We can only hope.

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