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Flavanols in Cocoa Boost Brain's Blood Flow

It's news we all want to hear -- that eating chocolate is
good for you. Well not quite, but an ingredient in some chocolates is showing
promise in promoting blood flow to the brain.

The ingredient is flavanols, which are nutrients found in cocoa. Flavanols
are considered to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories on cells. These
chemicals can protect cells and tissue from damage, which in turn protects
against heart disease and cancer .

The research and similar studies were funded by Mars Inc., the maker of
Snickers and other foods.

"The totality of the research on cocoa flavanols is impressive. This is
just one more study adding to an increasing body of literature connecting
regular cocoa flavanol consumption to blood flow and vascular health
improvements throughout the body," according to news release comments from
Harold Schmitz, chief science officer at Mars.

Schmitz says that flavanol-rich drinks or foods could be created to help
slow brain decline as people age.

This study rounded up 34 healthy 59- to 83-year-olds. The average age was
72. None of the participants was a smoker or had diabetes or high blood pressure .

The participants were asked not to take in any caffeine , alcohol, or chocolate
for at least 12 hours before being tested.

The participants were told to drink a special cocoa drink twice a day. Some
drank a high-flavanol drink (450 milligrams). The other group got a
low-flavanol drink (18 milligrams).

Study members drank their cocoa and then came to a hospital where
researchers used ultrasound to see how well
blood was flowing in the brain, specifically in the middle cerebral artery.

Flavanol and Blood Flow

After one week, blood flow measures increased 8% in the group that got the
flavanol-rich drinks. After two weeks that went up to a 10% increase.

When comparing participants drinking the high-flavanol cocoa to those who
drank the low-flavanol cocoa, there was an increase in measured blood flow.

The researchers write that flavanols could have a "promising role"
to treat brain conditions such as stroke and dementia .

The findings are published in the journal Neuropychiatric Disease and
Treatment.

By Kelley Colihan
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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