What Are You Snacking on? Make Better Brain Choices

When the idea of snacks are brought up, the scary choices like Doritos, chips and nachos come to mind.  But what do you think these do to your brain?

Becomes vaguely reminiscent of the “This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.” commercials.  The unhealthy fats in most snacks (high in omega 6 from corn, soybean and cottonseed oils) have been linked to lower IQs and overall brain function.  Personally, I would prefer eating snacks that support brain health rather than destroy it.

Enter the beloved cacao bean.  Believed to have originally been grown in the shadow of the Andes mountains, the cacao bean is most commonly used to make chocolate and cocoa; two food items that are rarely thrown across the room by disgruntled toddlers.  Here’s the best part—the research consistently and strongly shows that cacao based compounds are really protective to your blood vessels.  Protect your blood vessels and you protect your brain and heart.  If these benefits came from gnawing on bark and grass from an untainted field, I could understand some reluctance.  But it’s chocolate.

This particular study yet again demonstrates to benefits of cacao compounds on the brain.  Researchers looked at neurovascular coupling, a term referring to the changes in blood flow that occur with activation of certain areas of the brain.

60 participants at an average age of 72.9 years were given cocoa and followed for one month.  They were evaluated for both neurovascular coupling and cognitive function measured via the Mini-Mental State Examination and the Trail Making Test A and B (A targets are all numbers and the test taker needs to connect them in sequential order, and B alternates between numbers and letters).  The test were evaluated at the 24 hour mark and the one month mark.  When possible, MRIs were also used to look at the white matter of the brain.  Here’s what they found:

  • In those participants who had impaired neurovascular coupling at the beginning of the trial, results improved (from -2.4% up to 5.6%).
  • Times to complete Trail B improved 44% as well (from 116 to 167 seconds).
  • Under MRI, the white matter of the brain demonstrate better structural integrity.

While some of the results may seem a little confusing, let me sum it up for you:

You need to take more cocoa, dark chocolate and straight up cacao.  Pretty simple.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.