There's been a lot of press lately about the benefits of chocolate. A new study found that the flavanols it contains increase blood flow to the brain. Previous studies found these flavanols also protect against heart disease.
These studies gave many people permission to eat large quantities of high-sugar, high-fat candy bars. Unfortunately, the benefits of chocolate may be not as great as you think. Chocolate will do little for your vascular system - unless you eat the right kind.
Chocolate?s benefits to your heart and brain come from its flavanols, plant-based antioxidants. A lot of people know that dark chocolate contains more flavanols than milk chocolate. But they don?t realize that the heat used in processing most chocolate destroys flavanols and reduces their levels.
The folks at Mars, Inc. know this. They have conducted more than 100 scientific studies over the past 15 years on cocoa flavanols. In their most recent one, they had a group of adults over 59 drink a cup of cocoa made with a standardized flavanol-rich chocolate powder. This powder, called Cocoapro, is processed with low heat, which helps it retain more flavanols than other chocolates.
The study participants who drank the Mars cocoa regularly had an 8% increase in their blood flow in just one week! At the end of two weeks, they had a 10% increase. Reduced blood flow to the brain can slow down brain function. It can even lead to dementia.
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So if you?re eating chocolate because it?s a healthier sweet than other candies, choose dark chocolate. But if you want to preserve or support good brain function, or have a loved one with memory problems, you?ll want to get one that?s been standardized to contain high amounts of flavanols. CocoaVia and Dove Dark are chocolates that contain this standardized high-flavanol cocoa. Both are widely available.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
www.medicalnewstoday, August 19 2008.