Category Archives: Chocolate

Flavanols in cocoa may reverse age-related memory loss

cocoa-beans-big-SSWe honestly don’t know many people who don’t love chocolate. And we know that there are some important health benefits related to dark chocolate, especially — high levels of antioxidants, lowered blood pressure, and protection against sun damage to the skin, to name a few.

If you’re looking for yet another reason, a new study suggests that a natural compound found in cocoa, tea and some vegetables can reverse age-related memory loss.

The findings suggest that the compound increases connectivity and, subsequently, blood flow in a region of the brain critical to memory, the researchers said.

The study found that flavanols reverse mild memory loss in older adults. Using brain scans and memory tests, the latest study built on previous work showing that flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had improved neuronal connections in mice’s dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in memory formation.

But hold that chocolate bar. The researchers also warn that the compound found in cocoa exists only in minuscule amounts in the average chocolate bar compared with the amount used in the study, so gorging on chocolate in the name of health and improving one’s memory could backfire.

“It would make a lot of people happy, but it would also make them unhealthy,” Scott A. Small, a professor of neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Taub Institute at Columbia University Medical Center, said Friday.

Small said that even more important, the new study offers the first direct evidence that memory deteriorates with age because of changes in the dentate gyrus, a region of the hippocampus. Previous studies had shown a link between changes in this region of the brain and normal, age-related memory loss, but the Columbia University study asserts a causal link.

“It more firmly establishes that this is the anatomical source of age-related memory loss,” Small, the study’s senior author, said. He said the study also offered yet more evidence that diet and healthy lifestyles that increase blood flow to the brain can slow or reverse age-related cognitive decline.

The study involved 37 healthy subjects who ranged in age from 50 to 69. On a random basis, they were given either a high-flavanol diet, consuming 900 milligrams a day, or a low flavanol diet, consuming 10mg per day. Brain scans, which measure blood volume in the dentate gyrus, and memory tests were used to evaluate the effect of the diet. Small said the typical candy bar contains about 40mg of flavanols.

Researchers said that if a person had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months, on average, that person’s memory would function more like a 30- or 40-year-old’s. The researchers also cautioned that more work is needed because of the study’s small sample size.

The compounds appear to enhance connectivity and metabolic activity in the dentate gyrus. Aging appears to reduce the synapses, or connections, between neurons in that part of the brain. That decline, however, is not related to severe memory loss and cell death in Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, Small said.

While it doesn’t appear that we can reverse age-related memory loss with chocolate alone (moderation is key to enjoying its health benefits), FoodFacts.com wants to point out that green tea, apples, red grapes, red wine and pomegranates are all fine sources of flavanols. There are many ways to make sure we’re getting the benefits of flavanols through our diet. And for chocolate lovers, well — it’s certainly another great reason to indulge — in moderation, of course — in our favorite sweet treat!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/compound-in-chocolate-found-to-reverse-age-related-memory-loss-study-finds/2014/10/26/cee91aac-5bcb-11e4-bd61-346aee66ba29_story.html

Baskin-Robbins reports: chocolate is a very happy flavor!

Baskin-RobbinsIt’s possible you already knew that! Some of us here at FoodFacts.com certainly did. But Baskin-Robbins wanted to officially find out which flavor in their 1,000+ variety database was most associated with happiness, so they’ve conducted a study to determine the results.

To help with this project, Baskin-Robbins said it partnered with Juliet A. Boghossian, a behavioral food expert and founder of Food-ology.

According to Baskin-Robbins, Food-ology is an “original methodology that links food-related habits to personality traits and behavioral tendencies.”

Looking to stamp out gloominess and summer funks, Baskin-Robbins handed Boghossian a tough assignment: Find out which of the more than 1,000 flavors in the Baskin-Robbins ice cream data-base are most likely to induce happiness.

Using a methodology that could hurt the thinking cap of a Harvard professor, Boghossian concluded that chocolate, jamoca coffee, very berry strawberry, rocky road, and vanilla are the flavors most likely to uplift a person who’s feeling moody and low.

“It’s surprising to most people when they learn that specific ice cream flavors can increase one’s happiness more than others,” Boghossian said in a statement. “For example, the ice cream flavors enjoyed as a child can actually trigger happy memories, release tension, and remove distractions in the moment. Ice cream lovers can also consume a dose of happy by choosing a flavor with mood enhancing ingredients like chocolate, coffee, almonds, or mint.”

In case you’re wondering why such research has just come to light, consider that July happens to be National Ice Cream Month, which on the Baskin-Robbins calendar is also known as a month of sundaes.

Or ice cream cones, for that matter. As part of its celebration of National Ice Cream Month, Baskin-Robbins said it offering customers “a free freshly-baked waffle cone upgrade with the purchase of a double scoop of Baskin-Robbins ice cream. The offer is available at participating Baskin-Robbins shops nationwide throughout the summer months.”

The study is a lot of fun — especially during National Ice Cream Month. Of course, we have to mention that we’d love to see Baskin-Robbins honor the occasion with some ingredient list improvements. But we’re still happy to know which ice cream flavors are bound to lift a heavy summer mood regardless!

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/07/09/new-baskin-robbins-research-scoop-chocolate-ice-cream-equals-dose-happy/caamrcAFJVWnbwo2Icl71M/story.html

Great news for chocolate lovers — your favorite sweet may help prevent obesity and diabetes

iStock_000013818677Small.jpgEvery chocolate lover carries just a little guilt over indulging in their favorite sweet. As more and more research is released revealing the health benefits of moderate chocolate consumption, that guilt dissipates a bit. But the newest research may prove to be the most surprising of all, unexpectedly linking chocolate to the possible prevention of both obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In a mouse study, led by Andrew P. Neilson of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, researchers discovered that a certain antioxidant in cocoa – the main ingredient in chocolate – prevented mice from gaining weight and lowered their blood sugar levels.

This is not the only study to suggest that consuming chocolate can prevent such health conditions.

Earlier this year, a study claiming that chocolate, as well as wine and berries, protects against type 2 diabetes, while other research found that teens who eat lots of chocolate tend to be slimmer.

Such studies claim that the reason chocolate may have these health benefits is because of the flavanols it contains. These are types of antioxidants.

But the researchers of this most recent study say that not all flavanols are the same. In fact, cocoa has several different types.

In their study, published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, the investigators set out to determine exactly which flavanol may be responsible for preventing weight gain and lowering blood glucose levels.

For the research, the investigators assigned mice to one of six different diets for 12 weeks.

These consisted of high- and low-fat diets, and high-fat diets supplemented with either monomeric, oligomeric or polymeric procyandins (PCs) – types of flavanols. Mice were given 25 milligrams of these flavanols each day for every kilogram of their body weight (25 mg/kg).

The research team found that a high-fat diet supplemented with oligomeric PCs was the most effective for maintaining weight of the mice and improving glucose tolerance – a factor that could help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the findings, the researchers say:

“Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.  Additional studies of prolonged feeding of flavanol fractions in vivo are needed to further identify the fractions with the highest bioactivities and, therefore, the greatest potential for translation to human clinical applications at reasonable doses.”

The investigators point out that the doses of flavanols used in this study are significantly lower than doses used in past research and are more feasible when translated into flavanol levels for human consumption.

“Therefore, our data suggest that moderate doses of cocoa flavanols or cocoa powder have the potential to be more effective in human clinical trials than previously thought,” they add.

While FoodFacts.com understands that this study is by no means suggesting we all stock up on our favorite candy bars, it is exciting news for chocolate lovers everywhere. It’s also fascinating to understand that chocolate — which has for so long been thought of as an unnecessary source of calories — may actually help prevent the diseases with which it has been associated. Hearing good news about a food we love is always a welcome thing … especially when that food is such a sweet indulgence!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275008.php

February is National Heart Month and Valentine’s Day – honor both with some red wine and dark chocolate!

FoodFacts.com wants to acknowledge that February is National Heart Month! And Valentine’s Day – the holiday of hearts – is this coming Thursday. So we felt that it would be appropriate to inform our community tonight that you can celebrate both with some dark chocolate and red wine while knowing that, in moderation, you’re actually making good choices for your heart health!

Susan Ofria, a registered dietitian at the Loyola University Health System in Melrose Park confirms that both are actually good health choices. In moderation, both have positive components that are actually beneficial for your heart. Both red wine and dark chocolate that has a cocoa content of 70 percent or higher contain resveratrol. This has been found to lower blood sugar. Red wine also contains catechins which may help to boost “good” HDL cholesterol.

So this Valentine’s Day, give yourself permission to enjoy both and give your romantic heart and your physical heart the benefits of your own enjoyment!

Ofria also makes some recommendations for heart-healthy foods you can enjoy during National Heart Month – and all year long!

Red Wine – all varieties of red wines contain resveratrol and catechins. Enjoy them in moderation.

Dark chocolate, 70 percent or higher cocoa content – as long as it’s dark chocolate with the specified cocoa content, it contains resveratrol and flavonoids.

Salmon and tuna – specifically white, albacore tuna, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Flaxseeds – brown or yellow ground flaxseeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and phytoestrogens.

Oatmeal – it’s good source of soluble fiber, niacin, folate and potassium.

Black or kidney beans – both are a good source of niacin, folate, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, soluble fiber.

Walnuts and almonds – additional sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber and heart-favorable mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

Blueberries/cranberries/raspberries/strawberries – berries are high in beta carotene and lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid (a polyphenol), vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber.

Don’t you just love it when we get healthy permission to indulge in food and drink? FoodFacts.com certainly does!  This Valentine’s Day, make sure your chocolate is dark and your wine is red and share a romantic moment with your loved one. And then, after that, remember to incorporate this great list of heart-healthy foods into your diet. Not just during National Heart month, but all year long to play an active role in your own good heart health!

Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130211134742.htm

In case you’re looking for a reason to eat more chocolate, read on …

FoodFacts.com was happy and surprised to read some new research that (loosely) links chocolate and increased brain power! We know how much some folks love chocolate and that it can often be a guilty pleasure. This information could alleviate some of the guilt.

Apparently, those countries that have the largest number of Nobel Prize winners are also the countries with the highest regular chocolate consumption per person. Seems pretty incredible, doesn’t it? Switzerland, for example, has one of the world’s largest numbers of Nobel laureates and it is also the country with the world’s highest chocolate consumption. This is actually from an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Swiss chocolate is very high quality, containing higher amounts of pure cocoa than other chocolates produced around the world. And, to really clarify the consumption part of the equation, Swiss people consume 120 three-ounce bars of chocolate each per year.

While the United States can happily claim our fair share of Nobel laureates, our population is much larger. The U.S. comes out in the middle of the list for these brainy prizewinners. And while we do consume quite a bit of chocolate, the products we consume are not as pure as those consumed in countries where chocolate is taken much more seriously. There are citizens of other countries who would not consider those products to be chocolates at all. For them, chocolate is an art form.

While the evidence can be considered a little farfetched, the data appears to be pretty solid. It seems that it is being attributed to the flavanols contained in cocoa. These are a subclass of flavanoids which are present in plant-based foods. Flavanoids have been linked to increased cognitive function. In fact, studies have shown that flavanoids are connected with reducing the risk of dementia.

Flavanols are thought to lower blood pressure and some animal studies have shown that they do improve cognitive ability.

The data examined showed that Switzerland is the top country for chocolate consumption and also ranks very high in its number of Nobel prizewinners. Sweden was another country cited for having had a very high number of Nobel laureates and plenty of chocolate lovers!

FoodFacts.com thought that this information, although fun and a little frivolous, looks like it may hold some truth based on the flavanol component of cocoa. Not to mention, we thought our community might enjoy learning about another reason why it may be okay to become better friends with chocolate!

There’s more information to learn about here:
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/251491.php