Chocolate can fight dementia
If you're tired of hearing about how your favorite treats are unhealthy, I've got some good news for you today: Chocolate may help prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Yes, delicious chocolate... is good brain food.
We've actually seen this in studies of good brain food before, but the latest research goes a step further, showing how the antioxidants found in cocoa work to protect critical brain cells.
Researchers extracted the antioxidants from ordinary store-bought cocoa powder and set them loose on brain cells in a lab dish to see what would happen.
And what happened was a candy executive's dream come true -- something that would probably be on the wrapper of every Mars bar, if not for strict FDA regulations -- because the cocoa antioxidants kicked off a process called brain-derived neurotropic factor survival pathway.
That's not a phrase you'll ever hear from a talking M&M in a TV commercial, but it's an essential process that helps keeps neurons alive.
And in the study of good brain food in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry, the cocoa antioxidants even launched this process in brain cells that had the beta amyloid plaques linked to dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
The effect was so startling that the researchers say cocoa polyphenols may be even more powerful than those found in green tea. And like the famously healthy antioxidants in that tea, the ones in cocoa have also shown they can help protect the heart, fight off oxidative stress, and more.
This is great news for chocolate lovers, of course, but don't take this as a license to eat candy all the time. A square or two a day of dark chocolate is all you need for the good brain food benefits -- any more than that, and your healthy habit could quickly become an unhealthy one.
Alternatively, you can also get the great taste of cocoa without the sugar and dairy fats by working unsweetened cocoa powder -- the same stuff used in the study -- into your drinks and even some of your recipes.
The antioxidants in cocoa are also available in supplement form. I know -- where's the fun in that, right? But if you can't help yourself around chocolate, supplements might be a better option.