Because chocolate

To improve a memory, consider chocolate –NYT

Dark chocolate could improve memory by 25%, but you’d have to eat 7 bars a day –PBS

Dietary flavanols reverse age-related memory decline –Columbia University Medical Centre

dark chocolate

The actual study: Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults (Brickman et al., 2014)

High flavanol group: 900 mg cocoa flavanols and 138 mg epicatechin (that’d be a LOT of dark chocolate).

Control: 10 mg cocoa flavanols and 2 mg epicatechin

Study duration: 3 months

Funding: NIH & Mars lol

Cerebral blood volume (CBV) of this particular area of the brain declines with age and is lower in cognitively impaired:

dentate gyrus aging cognitively impaired

…and it responds to dark chocolate (flavanols) (in most people):

dentate gyrus dark chocolate

…and this was associated with improved performance in a cognitive task:

cognitive task

Admittedly, the effect was small and of borderline statistical significance, and it’d be really hard (ie, fattening) to do with whole foods (ie, dark chocolate), but maybe if you’re in it for the long haul, dark chocolate might truly have this effect.  And there’s a plausible mechanism: many studies show that smaller doses improve blood flow; if this carried over to critical brain regions, then very plausible.  I’m hedging my bets on: lower dose, much longer duration.

Effects of dark chocolate and cocoa consumption on endothelial function and arterial stiffness in overweight adults (West et al., 2014)

However, maybe such a high dose of flavanols isn’t even necessary if we just eat dark chocolate instead of flavanol supps: Theobromine enhances absorption of cacao polyphenol in rats (Yamamoto et al., 2014).  This is similar to resveratrol; other compounds in red wine have been shown to increase it’s bioavailability, so maybe you don’t need to drink eleventy billion glasses to get all the benefits seen in the epic rodent studies.

Part 2: Chocolate consumption, cognitive function, and Nobel Laureates (Messerli, 2012)

Nobel Prizes chocolate consumption

^^^nobody really believes this

Scientific activity is a better predictor of Nobel Award chances than dietary habits and economic factors (Doi et al., 2014).  No shit, Sherlocke.

Chocolate habits of Nobel Prize winners (Golomb et al., 2013)

“We surveyed 23 male winners of the Nobel prize in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, and economics. Ten (43%) reported eating chocolate more than twice a week, compared with only 25% of 237 well-educated age- and sex-matched controls. Three proffered that their chocolate consumption had indeed contributed to their Nobel prize, but most disavowed any link. Two attested that they had won the prize in spite of their chocolate habits.

Nobel Laureates on chocolate

Part 3.  While we can be hopeful, I don’t think dark chocolate’s strongest effect is on brain power.

or not…

Chocolate and the brain: neurobiological impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition and behavior (Sokolov et al., 2013)

Cocoa extracts reduce oligomerization of amyloid-beta: implications for cognitive improvement in Alzheimer’s disease (Wang et al., 2014)

Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans (Wirtz et al., 2014) and Effects of dark chocolate consumption on the prothrombotic response to acute psychosocial stress in healthy men (van Kanel et al., 2014).

I don’t particularly care for flavanols, which is why I don’t care if my dark chocolate has been Dutched or not.  That said, they’re not all that bad: Flavan-3-ol fraction from cocoa powder promotes mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle in mice (Watanabe et al., 2014).

Dark chocolate is also good for the microbiome.

Dark chocolate is a very rich source of saturated fatty acids.  We don’t live in a mythical organic GMO-free world; if we did, I might say eat all the PUFAs you want.  However, we live in a toxic environment, consistently exposed to all manner of pollutants, etc.  Saturated fatty acids protect cellular membranes.  They should not be avoided.  And, dark chocolate is delicious.

maybe it’ll make you smarter, too

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