How sweet it is: Dark chocolate improves cognition in people with MCI

(Healthline has an excellent post with all the details on how to choose the right dark chocolate. You can read it here: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dark-chocolate-buyers-guide)

OK, I could sit here today and I could tell you, “Eat lentils.” “Eat broccoli.”

But if the philosophy I preach is that brain health isn’t supposed to be a form of punish, that it’s supposed to be fun, and add enrichment and add enjoyment to your life while also promoting better cognition, then I’ve got to do better than that.

So today, let’s talk about dark chocolate.

Because for people with mild cognitive impairment, it can be a form of medicine for your mind.

That’s according to a study I want to talk with you about today.

Hi, I’m Tony Dearing, of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.

The research that I want to talk about today was done in Italy, and looked at the results of studies involving cocoa flavanols being administered to people with memory loss over a period of anywhere from five days to three months.

What they found is important for anyone with MCI. According to their findings: “Long term ingestion of cocoa flavanols improved attention, mental processing, working memory and verbal fluency and was most beneficial in those who had mild cognitive impairment or the beginnings of memory loss.”

Now, when it comes to brain health, and particularly cognitive impairment, I pay very close attention to the science. But in this case, I had a chance to be part of the science.

A couple of years ago, I participated in a Phase 3 clinical trial at Columbia University, looking at cocoa flavanols and cognition.

An earlier study at Columbia had shown that cocoa flavanols could reverse age-related memory decline in healthy older adults. What I took part in was a follow-up study to determine what the right dose is to get the best benefit.

So I was already aware of the benefits of dark chocolate, and when I saw this newer study which involved people with MCI, I thought, man, I need to talk about that.

To be clear, what we’re talking about here is the dark chocolate containing cocoa, which which is loaded with such naturally brain healthy properties as flavanols and polyphenols.

We get this cocoa from dried and fermented beans from cacao trees. And just by coincidence, I happened to be on a tour at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley where I learned a little more about the cacao tree.

Here’s a cacao tree, and a snippet of what the docent was telling us about the cocoa bean, or seed, as she calls it: “So we take that seed, that bitter seed, and we dry it, and we add fat and sugar and make it really scrumptious.”

Of course, that’s the problem. If you want that benefit, you’re not going to get it from commercial candy products that are loaded with sugar and saturated fat. Ideally, what you’re looking for is dark chocolate with at least 80 percent cocoa content, and ideally 85 or 90 percent.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi, of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Center and author of the book “Brain Food,” says she that eats a small piece of dark chocolate every single day. Talk about making brain health fun.

The idea that chocolate can improve cognition and memory in people with MCI seems almost too good to be true. But the science says it’s true. So go ahead and enjoy that dark chocolate and let it go right to your mind, where is can do you some good.

Thanks for joining me today. I’ll see you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.

Read more about the Italian study on dark chocolate and cognition here: https://www.sciencealert.com/here-s-scientific-evidence-chocolate-can-boost-your-brain-power

Read more about Dr. Lisa Mosconi and her book “Brain Health” here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jesscording/2018/03/12/top-brain-foods/#3e5a4f3e3a9d

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