Chocolate Research: Eat Healthy Chocolate for Your Brain

Many have the mistaken idea that living a healthy lifestyle is painfully boring. These same people are likely not aware of the volume of chocolate research…

I had a discussion with a new patient recently who said she liked sweets too much to be healthy.  I asked how she would feel about a regular routine of dark chocolate mixed with sweeter fruits like cranberries, blueberries or strawberries.  Didn’t sound too bad to her.

Like many other people, we have an altered perception of what is good and bad for us.  Do any of these misconceptions sound familiar?

  1. Nuts are fattening.
  2. Diet soda will help me from gaining weight.
  3. Milk does a body good.
  4. I need to exercise 45 minutes 3 times per week.

Of course there are many more, but these were the first few that popped into my head.

Dark chocolate has been shown time and time again to be very good for us, along with its cousin, cocoa.  Both are derived from the cacao plant and so have similar positive effects on health.  Most of their power seems to be focused around protecting our blood vessels (aka vascular health).  Lest you think vascular health doesn’t have the pizazz of heart disease and stroke, remember that almost ALL heart attacks and strokes begin with a problem in the blood vessels.  Protect the blood vessels and you protect everything.

Especially the brain.  Nothing destroys the brain more that poor vascular health.  This is why conditions like prediabetes are so bad for the brain–the prediabetic state absolutely destroys the health of your blood vessels.  Do this for too long and the cells of the brain begin to lose the vital blood flow they need to function optimally.  These changes begin to show up as white matter changes.

Just in case you don’t think the chocolate research is really this strong as it relates to vascular health, this particular article looks at the risk of having a stroke as it relates to healthy chocolate.

  1. Overall, high chocolate consumption was associated with a lower risk of stroke.
  2. The highest group of chocolate consumers averaged 62.9 g/week (just under a good sized bar).
  3. The highest group had a 19% lower risk of all types of stroke.

While 19% is not dramatic, make sure you take this into perspective.  It’s chocolate.

One last comment, which I’m sure you’re already aware of.  We’re not talking about the sugar-laden, dairy containing milk chocolate here.  The protective compounds in milk chocolate are almost absent, while they remain very high in dark chocolate.  The higher the cacao content, the better.

How do you like to eat your chocolate?

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.