The gift of chocolate can mark many momentous occasions. It may be due to tradition, an event or a wooing of some sorts. Regardless, here’s an even better reason: there are key compounds in cacao, called flavanols, that have recently been touted for their aide in improved cognitive skills. Can the gift of chocolate unlock higher and more efficient brainpower?
Italian researches grouped together to observe the effects flavanols had on 90 healthy 60- to 85-year-old human test subjects. These subjects had satisfactory memory and thinking skills. Participants in the study drank a special cacao flavanol cocktail daily. Group 1 cocktail contained a low amount of cacao flavanols (48 mg daily), group 2 cocktail contained a medium amount (520 mg daily), and group 3 peaked at high amount (993 mg daily).
After an 8-week duration, surveyors discovered that individuals who consumed medium and high amounts of cacao flavanols, every day, made strident improvement on tests that measured attention, executive function, and memory. The study and results can be found at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
A similar study by these researchers published in 2012 exhibited that a daily consumption of cacao is associated with exemplary cognitive skills in older adults who did have a handicap, a condition called mild cognitive impairment.
Both studies found that cacao flavanols were associated with reduced blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.
What’s so magical?
Flavanols are a plant nutrient present in many foods and drinks (i.e. tea, red wine, blueberries, apples, pears, cherries, and peanuts). Flavanols are abundant in the seeds of the cacao tree, more specifically in cacao beans. The fermentation, drying, and roasting the cacao bean can yield cacao powder, which is then used to make chocolate.
Cacao and its respective flavanols have been studied for many years. In all of these studies, there is evidence that cacao can lower blood pressure, improve blood circulation to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots, and fight against cell damage that they body may have sustained in the aging process.
So, how does cacao and flavanols boost your ‘thinking cap’ and brain function? Although, the effects of these brain-boosting flavanols have not been directly studied in human beings, “we know that flavanols facilitate brain cell connections and survival, and protect the brain cells from toxins or the negative effects of inflammation,” says Dr. Miguel Alonso, a neuroscientist who is member of the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Alonso, with his knowledge on nutrition, scribed an editorial supporting the findings of the Italian researchers.
The Tao of Cacao
Whether it’s adding to your home chocolate stash, cheering up a friend or watching Forest Gump and waiting for that world-famous scene, you can be rest-assured that the benefits of cacao are numerous. Not just on the surface, but skin deep and within the healthy bounds of your body. With your daily dose of cacao, you will improve your brainpower, strengthen your cardiovascular system, gain a positive outlook, and build up your endurance to accomplish more. Discover the Tao of cacao and live now!