Drinking Cocoa Could Improve Your Health

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At Slater Family Dental, our friendly and compassionate dentists want every patient to enjoy the very best oral and overall health. To keep you looking and feeling your best, we’re happy to bring you the latest news that will help improve your health.

You never know what can improve your health, and this latest bit of research offers a sweet surprise.

A new study has found that drinking two cups of hot cocoa a day can improve the memory skills of seniors who have exhibited low blood flow levels in their brains. While researchers don’t recommend stocking up on Swiss Miss quite yet, the early results of this study offer an intriguing glimpse into how the human brain functions.

This research has provided scientist an opportunity to gain a better understanding of one of the great mysterious of the brain- how blood flow affects memory and cognitive thinking. Research has already established that neurons- a type of brain cell- required blood as a fuel source to function.

Relative to the rest of the body, the brain requires an inordinate amount of energy to function. Even though the brain accounts for just two percent of an individual’s body mass, it requires 20 percent of the body’s energy requirements, according to researchers at Swinburne University’s the Center for Human Psychopharmacology who conducted the study. The brain requires a constant supply of blood to produce the metabolic fuels of oxygen and glucose. When an individual ages, the amount of blood flow to the brain begins to reduce, contributing to a decrease in cognitive function.

The results of the study were published in the August edition of the journal Neurology.

Sweet Benefits

In recent years, a number of studies have found a number of positive benefits related to the consumption of chocolate, especially dark and milk varieties, and heart health. For this latest study, researchers wanted to explore whether cocoa could also affect the brain, its blood flow, and overall brainpower.

To conduct their study, researcher recruited 60 participants with an average age of 73 and assigned them for 30 days to one of two groups. The first drank cocoa high in flavanol- a compound found in cocoa that research has already established as possessing the ability to improve blood flow- while the second consumed cocoa containing lower levels of flavanol.

Of the study participants, 18 individuals experienced a decrease in brain blood flow at the beginning of the study. Nearly all of the study participants suffered from high blood pressure and 50 percent had some form of diabetes.

Following the 30-day trial, researchers discovered an eight percent increase in blood flow among those participants who entered the study suffering from low blood flow. Researchers did not find any improvement in participants who exhibited normal blood flow at the beginning of the study.

Individuals who suffered from low blood flow were also shown to perform better on memory tests, improving on the amount time required to complete tasks from an average of 167 seconds to 116 seconds.

Researchers also determined that the amount of flavanol a drink contained did not seem to matter when attempting to improve brain function. This could suggest that even low levels of flavanol can improve blood flow and brain function, or that compound actually has no affect at all. The improvements to blood flow could potentially of been caused by the consumption of caffeine or due to some other unknown component of the cocoa.

A Positive Step

Currently, the data uncovered in the study has proved too limited, and does not conclusively link cocoa consumption directly with a boost in the brainpower of individuals who suffer from low blood flow in the brain. Additionally, while the study has found a short-term benefit to drinking cocoa, researchers did not provide any long-term benefits drinking cocoa could provide.

However, researchers were encouraged by the potential these early findings suggested about cocoa consumption. With the number of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease continuing to rise, further research into how to improve brain function offers a potential glimpse at ways to combat the rise of this disease.

Considering the limited nature of the preliminary results of this study, the Alzheimer’s Association doesn’t yet recommend that seniors start adding cocoa to their daily diet. Increased consumption of sugary drinks can be problematic for individuals suffering from diabetes. Consuming more sugar can also lead to an increase in oral health problems, requiring further dental care procedures for seniors who already suffer from poor oral health. Tooth decay already affects 60 percent of all seniors, and researchers cautioned that increased sugar consumption should be accompanied by improve oral care to prevent further decay.

Of course beverages likes cocoa contain high levels of sugar, which can negatively impact your oral health. If you enjoy a nightly cup of cocoa, make sure that you keep brushing and flossing on a nightly basis. In fact, additional research has shown that individuals with poor oral health have a higher risk of suffering from dementia. So make sure to keep your oral health a top priority by making regular visits to see your Aloha dentist at Slater Family Dental.

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