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    Natracure Blog — chocolate

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    Does Chocolate Boost Brain Function & Memory?

    Chocolate just got a little bit sweeter. New research published in the journal Appetite suggests habitual chocolate consumption is positively associated with cognitive performance — the first cohort study to examine associations between longer-term chocolate eating and brain function, according to researchers. Prior studies have shown chocolate and cocoa flavanols can improve cardiovascular health, but less is known about ways chocolate impacts human cognition. The present study aimed to learn more about the treat's neurocognitive benefits. Researchers used data collected during the sixth wave of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), where participants living in Syracuse, N.Y., were measured for dietary intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For the dietary portion, participants answered a questionnaire that measured for how frequently they consumed a list of foods, including meat, rice and pasta, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, other snack-type foods, as well as beverages like water, coffee, and alcohol. The answers ranged from never to once or more per day. To measure for cognitive function, participants were given a series of tests designed to measure a wide range of cognitive domains: visual-spatial memory and organization, scanning and tracking, verbal episodic memory, and working memory. The Mini-Mental State Examination was also included to measure for mental status — high scores indicated better performance, researcher wrote. When combining dietary intake with cognitive tests, individual demographics, and physical health assessments, researchers found chocolate consumption was positive associated with cognitive performance "irrespective of other dietary habits." The finding held up even when researchers adjusted for participant's cardiovascular risk factors, including total and LDL-cholesterol, glucose levels, and hypertension. Curious to see if cognitive performance predicted chocolate consumption, researchers performed a second analysis on a sample of participated who completed the dietary questionnaire, as well as cognitive tests given during earlier waves of MSLS. The results found no significant associations between chocolate intake and performance. So what's the catch? Well, chocolate was not differentiated according to type: milk, dark, or white chocolate. Some studies suggest there's an equal amount of methylxanthines in chocolate — a combination of caffeine and theobromine that's been associated with improving alertness and cognitive function — but an overwhelming amount of chocolate-related research shows preference for dark chocolate. The reason is dark chocolate tends to have higher levels of flavanols. Flavanols are a subgroup of flavonoids, with cocoa flavonoids being the most common, researchers said; high levels of flavanols are also found in tea, red wine, and fruits such as grapes and apples. There’s only seven to 15 percent of cocoa in milk chocolate compared to 30 to 70 percent in dark chocolate. Put it another way: One hundred grams of dark chocolate contains approximately 100 milligrams of flavanols compared to 15 mg for the same amount of milk chocolate. Without specifying how participants were soothing their sweet tooth, researchers can't say for sure which type(s) of chocolate improve cognitive performance. But, they speculate they can rule out white chocolate: In 2012, researchers found the distribution share of chocolate in the United States by favorite chocolate type was 57 percent milk chocolate, 35 percent dark chocolate, and 8 percent white chocolate. "It is evident that nutrients in foods exert differential effects on the brain. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, isolating these nutrients and foods enables the formation of dietary interventions to optimize neuropsychological health," researchers wrote. "Adopting dietary patterns to delay or slow the onset of cognitive decline is an appropriate avenue, given the limited treatments available for dementia. The present findings support recent clinical trials suggesting that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline." In the future, researchers suggest there be "longer-term clinical trials to shed further insight into this association between chocolate," cocoa flavanols, and neuropsychological health. They're also interested to see how the amounts of chocolate people eat affects cognition, and the effects of when foods high in flavonoids are consumed in combination. By Stephanie Castillo via MSN Health & Fitness Source: Crichton GE, Elias MF, Alkerwi A. Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. Appetite. 2016.

    Coffee, Coffee, It's Good For Your Heart

    Drinking coffee, tea or chocolate does not appear to cause heart palpitations, heart fluttering and other out-of-sync heartbeat patterns, researchers reported Tuesday. The report challenges a widely held belief that caffeinated drinks cause irregular heart rhythms that can lead to heart failure or dangerous heart rhythm disorders and is another vindication for coffee as a safe drink. It might be time for doctors to lighten up on coffee, says Dr. Gregory Marcus, a cardiologist at the University of California San Francisco, who led the study. "Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart's cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits," Marcus said in a statement. "WE MAY UNNECESSARILY BE DISCOURAGING CONSUMPTION OF ITEMS LIKE CHOCOLATE, COFFEE AND TEA THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY HAVE CARDIOVASCULAR BENEFITS." "Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant." It used to be believed that premature cardiac contractions, which usually cause no symptoms or mild symptoms such as heart palpitations, 'skipped' beats or fluttering, were harmless. But studies now show they're associated with heart failure, atrial fibrillation and other dangerous conditions. And doctors are widely taught that caffeine can cause these heart disturbances. To check, Marcus and colleagues examined 1,388 people, with an average age of 72, taking part in a larger heart study. About 60 percent said they drank some sort of caffeinated product every day. The team looked specifically at coffee, tea and chocolate and did not ask about super-caffeinated energy drinks. They measured instances of premature ventricular contractions and premature atrial contractions. They could not find any differences in instances of these heart disturbances, no matter how much coffee or tea or chocolate people had. "Therefore, we are only able to conclude that in general, consuming caffeinated products every day is not associated with having increased ectopy or arrhythmia but cannot specify a particular amount per day," Marcus and colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association. "HABITUAL COFFEE DRINKERS HAVE LOWER RATES OF CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE." They said it is possible that people who noticed heart flutters or other symptoms from coffee or tea may have cut back - they did not ask them. But they also noted that it's yet another finding in favor of moderate coffee drinking. "Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages in the United States and is the main source of caffeine intake among adults," they wrote. "Regular coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and depression," they added. "Furthermore, large observational studies have found that habitual coffee drinkers have lower rates of coronary artery disease and of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality." The cutoff seems to be around five cups a day, and kids shouldn't be drinking too much caffeine. Higher doses of caffeine can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has warned about sales of powdered caffeine, One teaspoon delivers as much caffeine as 28 cups of regular coffee. By Maggie Fox via NBC News

    The Truth Behind Your Favorite Caffeinated Holiday Drinks

    ‘Tis the season for delicious wintery drinks at your favorite local coffee stop. From lattes to espressos, the options are endless and can make your mouth water. Unfortunately, these drinks have huge prices to pay for your body and health. As we rapidly approach Christmas Day, you may be more tempted than ever to indulge in one of these beverages. But it might not be worth it. The numbers don’t lie and they’re definitely shocking. Vocativ studied holiday drinks from multiple popular food chains in America. The analysis included such celebrated coffee suppliers as Wawa, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Panera Bread. What they found was an unworldly number of calories and a down-right scary amount of sugar. Sadly, even the least sugary of the drinks sampled turned out to be loaded with sugar. It had 60 grams to be exact. That’s 14 teaspoons or 17 packets of sugar. Yes,seventeen. Remember, I’m describing the LEAST sugary drink on the list. So what’s the worst offender? That would be the Mint White Chocolate Hot Chocolate from Wawa. This 16 oz drink checks in with a ridiculous 140 grams of sugar. That’s 33 teaspoons of sugar. You’re better off chugging sugar straight out of the container! As far as packing the most fat, that award goes to the Starbucks’ Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha. That baby weighs in with 26 grams of fat. On a normal 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, that equates to 85% of your daily suggested amount of fat. Basically, with this drink, you shouldn’t have anything with a trace of fat for the rest of the day. Is it really worth it? That’s up to you! Here’s a list of the caloric content of some of the most popular holiday beverages, courtesy of Vocativ. 16 oz. Mint White Chocolate Hot Chocolate Wawa:  760 calories 20 oz. Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha Starbucks:  710 calories 20 oz. McCafe Hot Chocolate McDonald’s:  540 calories 16 oz. Signature Hot Chocolate Panera Bread:  480 calories 20 oz. Snickerdoodle Latte Dunkin' Donuts:  460 calories Those calorie counts really are eye-opening. So beware. It is okay to treat yourself, but be sure to do so sparingly. Making these drinks a habit will be detrimental to your health and weight goals. Just stop and ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” It’s a much smarter option to grab a coffee with low-fat milk or a tea. You can still feel the warmth from these beverages and hold your head high knowing you made a healthy choice!   By Pat DeRiso Sources: yahoo.com, vocative.com, authoritynutrition.com

    These 5 Superfoods Will Make a Difference

    What makes a food super you ask? The answer is simple. When incredible nutritional value meets deliciousness and simplicity, you have a superfood. Super foods are just too good for you not to have them in your diet. The health benefits are significant. And the foods can easily be incorporated into daily recipes and regimens. Read on to learn how these 7 foods can benefit you in ways you never imagined. Let’s get super!   1. Kale Yes, kale. Doesn’t sound too appetizing does it? What if I told you that kale can help combat asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and even arthritis? As one of the most nutrient rich foods on the planet, it make no sense to avoid it. Kale boasts the ideal combo of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and flavonoids that your body craves. Still not convinced? Kale has even shown the ability to preserve the elasticity of skin, which helps hold off premature aging. Try tossing kale into your salad or cooking it up as a side dish at dinner.   2. Blueberries

    This sweet and tart fruit has been popular for centuries for its delicious taste and versatility. Yet there are so many more reasons to love blueberries.  In addition to being a proven cholesterol reducer, this superfood can help fight cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Blueberries are easy to mix into your breakfast with hot or cold cereals, yogurts, oatmeal, and more!
      3. Chocolate Did I just tell you that chocolate is a superfood? Yes, yes I did. I’m not saying you should begin funneling Hershey’s Kisses into your body. However, dark chocolates are actually very beneficial for your body. The key here is to indulge in non-dairy dark chocolates with at least 70% cocoa. A small, bite-sized piece is ideal because it won’t cause you to exceed your daily fat intake while offering your body a delicious and nutritious treat. Dark chocolates provide your body with essential antioxidants and flavonols that keep blood pressure down and promote heart health.
      4. Avocados Avocados have gotten a bad rap for being high in fats. The problem there is the false belief that all fats are bad. In fact, avocados have healthy mono-saturated fats that benefit you in two ways. These fats will satisfy hunger quickly and help to control portions while also benefiting your cholesterol. Avocados contain essential B and K vitamins and also of cancer-reducing phytosterols and carotenoids. Sneak avocado into your diet by using it in spreads or dips!
      5. Sweet Potatoes All carbs aren’t the enemy. I suggest you make sweet potatoes one of your new best friends. Why? Sweet potatoes are one of the best foods on the planet at raising vitamin A levels in your blood. Not to mention that one sweet potato contains half of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Also, they contain proteins that work to fight off cell damage and increase healing in the body. Perhaps this superfood’s greatest benefit is its ability to replace French fries. Cut up sweet potatoes and toss them into the oven. Sprinkle them with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and salt, and you have an amazingly nutritious and delicious side dish or snack that you can eat with pride!
        There are certainly more foods that are super, but this list will get you started. Feel free to research more! You can never have enough superfoods in your diet to help ensure a healthy diet.   By Pat DeRiso   Sources: tips.life, wemd, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, easacademy.org, oregonstate.edu,whfoods.com