Dark Chocolate Affirmed as Brain-Booster
Official French evidence review concludes that dark, antioxidant-rich chocolate or cocoa can protect or improve brain function and mood
by Craig Weatherby
The uncommon “antioxidants”
in raw cocoa and dark chocolate
There’s ample evidence that diets rich in berries or other foods rich in polyphenols help deter the oxidative cell damage and inflammation caused by free radicals.
It’s becoming clear that polyphenols generally do not exert direct antioxidant effects in the body… at least not to a very substantial extent.
Instead, polyphenols appear to reduce oxidation and inflammation via so-called “nutrigenomic” effects on gene switches (e.g. transcription factors) in our cells.
Polyphenols’ nutrigenomic effects tend to moderate inflammation and stimulate the body’s own antioxidant network … which includes enzymes, lipoic acid, CoQ10, melatonin, and vitamins C and E.
In terms of their amounts of polyphenols per ounce, the richest food sources of polyphenols include raw (non-alkalized / non-“Dutched”) cocoa, spices, herbs, berries, plums, prunes, tea, coffee, extra virgin olive oil, onions, beans, and whole grains.
The antioxidants in cocoa are called flavanols … a relatively rare group of polyphenols whose only members are the compounds called catechins and procyanidins.
Catechins only occur abundantly in raw cocoa, dark chocolate, and green or white tea – with much smaller concentrations in other plant foods – while procyanidins abound in berries.
As Dr. Nehlig put it, “… [cocoa] flavonoids preserve cognitive abilities during aging in rats, [and] lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and … stroke in humans.” (Nehlig A 2012)