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Cocoa Flavanols and Brain Perfusion
Foods and beverages rich in flavonoids are being heralded as potential preventive agents for a range of pathologic conditions, ranging from hypertension to coronary heart disease to stroke and dementia. We and others have demonstrated that short-term ingestion of cocoa, particularly rich in the subclass of flavonoids known as flavanols, induced a consistent and striking peripheral vasodilation in healthy people, improving endothelial function in a nitric oxide-dependent manner. The vasodilator response was reversed by NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, an arginine analog that blocks nitric oxide synthesis. Flavanol-poor cocoa induced much smaller responses. Because impairment of endothelial function is a nearly universal accompaniment of the aging process, we examined the peripheral vasodilator response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy older subjects. Observations point to a favorable response among the older. Together with peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease is responsible for significant mortality with advancing age. An association of decreased cerebral perfusion with dementia has been recently highlighted. The prospect of increasing cerebral perfusion with cocoa flavanols is extremely promising. Our still preliminary data hold out the promise that the cerebral blood supply in the elderly participates in the vasodilator response. With the modalities of transcranial Doppler and MRI, we have the capabilities of analyzing the potential benefits of flavanols on brain perfusion and, subsequently, on cognition.
Effects of Chocolate Consumption on Enhancing Cognitive Performance
Original Research: http://www.wju.edu/academics/psy/recentresearchs2006.asp
Can Chocolate Lower Your Risk of Stroke?
American Academy of Neurology (2010, February 12). Can chocolate lower your risk of stroke?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 15, 2010,
Eating chocolate may lower your risk of having a stroke, according to an analysis of available research that was released February 11 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 62nd Annual Meeting in Toronto April 10 to April 17, 2010. Another study found that eating chocolate may lower the risk of death after suffering a stroke.
Science Daily Article (PDF)
Does Flavanol Intake Influence Mortality from Nitric Oxide-Dependent Processes?
Bayard V, Chamorro F, Motta J, Hollenberg NK. Does Flavanol Intake Influence Mortality from Nitric Oxide-Dependent Processes? Ischemic Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes Mellitus, and Cancer in Panama. Int J Med Sci 2007; 4:53-58.
Substantial data suggest that flavonoid-rich food could help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer. Cocoa is the richest source of flavonoids, but current processing reduces the content substantially. The Kuna living in the San Blas drink a flavanol-rich cocoa as their main beverage, contributing more than 900 mg/day and thus probably have the most flavonoid-rich diet of any population. We used diagnosis on death certificates to compare cause-specific death rates from year 2000 to 2004 in mainland and the San Blas islands where only Kuna live. Our hypothesis was that if the high flavanoid intake and consequent nitric oxide system activation were important the result would be a reduction in the frequency of ischemic heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and cancer – all nitric oxide sensitive processes. There were 77,375 deaths in mainland Panama and 558 deaths in the San Blas. In mainland Panama, as anticipated, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death (83.4 ± 0.70 age adjusted deaths/100,000) and cancer was second (68.4 ± 1.6). In contrast, the rate of CVD and cancer among island-dwelling Kuna was much lower (9.2 ± 3.1) and (4.4 ± 4.4) respectively. Similarly deaths due to diabetes mellitus were much more common in the mainland (24.1 ± 0.74) than in the San Blas (6.6 ± 1.94). This comparatively lower risk among Kuna in the San Blas from the most common causes of morbidity and mortality in much of the world, possibly reflects a very high flavanol intake and sustained nitric oxide synthesis activation. However, there are many risk factors and an observational study cannot provide definitive evidence.
Medical News Today (PDF)
Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans
Keywords: cerebral blood flow, flavanol, cocoa, transcranial Doppler ultrasound
Original Research http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2518374/
Chocolate Science: Brain and Nervous System Health