August 18, 2008
Cocoa Flavanols Improve Brain Blood Flow

The purpose of this post is to provide you with health advice that you will enjoy following. Too many forms of health advice are joyless. Use cocoa powder without guilt.

McLEAN, VA (August 18, 2008) – Cocoa flavanols, the unique compounds found naturally in cocoa, may increase blood flow to the brain, according to new research published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment journal. The researchers suggest that long-term improvements in brain blood flow could impact cognitive behavior, offering future potential for debilitating brain conditions including dementia and stroke.

In a scientific study of healthy, older adults ages 59 to 83, Harvard medical scientists found that study participants who regularly drank a cocoa flavanol-rich beverage made using the Mars, Incorporated Cocoapro® process had an eight percent increase in brain blood flow after one week, and 10 percent increase after two weeks.

In this first-of-its-kind study, the researchers found both short and long-term benefits of cocoa flavanols for brain blood flow, offering future potential for the one in seven older Americans currently living with dementia. When the flow of blood to the brain slows over time, the result may be structural damage and dementia. Scientists speculate that maintaining an increased blood flow to the brain could slow this cognitive decline.

I see from Googling that Mars sells this high flavanol chocolate under the CocoaVia brand. Some comments on the web say it is bitter. That is why flavanols get removed by most chocolate companies from chocolate during processing. But I'll put up with the bitter (more likely drown the bitter in honey) for the health benefits. Worth a try.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 August 18 10:07 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Jim said at August 19, 2008 10:13 AM:

Anyone find a good lowest cost source for CocoaVia bars, etc.?

NancyU said at August 19, 2008 9:51 PM:

I never really understood the whole women & chocolate thing until I tried the dark chocolate Cocoavia bars. This stuff may have good long term effects, but the short term effects are wonderful too. Cocoavia is better than coffee for me and definitely improves my mood almost immediately. I just let a quarter bar melt under my tongue whenever I'm feeling a bit run down and grumpy for no reason. Happy and alert in no time, with no sugar letdown.

I've been proselytizing about this stuff to all my female friends for months now. They all agree. If the almost all male Congress knew about this stuff they'd have made it illegal already.

And Jim, the lowest price I've ever seen it is $4.99 for 5 100 calorie bars.

Michael said at August 20, 2008 8:00 AM:

Note however that this was a short, small, open study. By contrast, a recent double-blind trial, with more subjects, longer duration, and a placebo (low-polyphenol chocolate and cocoa) found no such benefit:

W David Crews, Jr, David W Harrison, and James W Wright A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of the effects of dark chocolate and cocoa on variables associated with neuropsychological functioning and cardiovascular health: clinical findings from a sample of healthy, cognitively intact older adults Am J Clin Nutr 2008 87: 872-880.


Background: In recent years, there has been increased interest in the potential health-related benefits of antioxidant- and phytochemical-rich dark chocolate and cocoa.

Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the short-term (6 wk) effects of dark chocolate and cocoa on variables associated with neuropsychological functioning and cardiovascular health in healthy older adults.

Design: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, fixed-dose, parallel-group clinical trial was used. Participants (n = 101) were randomly assigned to receive a 37-g dark chocolate bar and 8 ounces (237 mL) of an artificially sweetened cocoa beverage or similar placebo products each day for 6 wk.

Results: No significant group (dark chocolate and cocoa or placebo)-by-trial (baseline, midpoint, and end-of-treatment assessments) interactions were found for the neuropsychological, hematological, or blood pressure variables examined. In contrast, the midpoint and end-of-treatment mean pulse rate assessments in the dark chocolate and cocoa group were significantly higher than those at baseline and significantly higher than the midpoint and end-of-treatment rates in the control group. Results of a follow-up questionnaire item on the treatment products that participants believed they had consumed during the trial showed that more than half of the participants in both groups correctly identified the products that they had ingested during the experiment.

Conclusions: This investigation failed to support the predicted beneficial effects of short-term dark chocolate and cocoa consumption on any of the neuropsychological or cardiovascular health-related variables included in this research. Consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa was, however, associated with significantly higher pulse rates at 3- and 6-wk treatment assessments.

Jim said at August 20, 2008 10:43 AM:

I did a bit of personal research and it seems Walgreens is generally more consistent in promoting this product relative to Walmart and Henry's. Albertson had quite a good selection of bars and drink, though was more expensive then Walgreens.

What I'm trying now is to reduce my coffee to just one cup, but augment it with the Cocoavia drink.
This is helping my caffeine reduction goal, while adding a little chocolate happiness to my morning.

For about $1.70 or so a drink (bottle) and coffee grounds (about 50 cents), I'm still keeping my cost well below a Starbucks Frap.


clayton said at August 22, 2008 8:51 AM:

1/4 Cup Raw Cacoa Nibs (ground into a powder)
1/4 Cup Shredded Coconut flakes
1/4 Cup Walnuts
2-3 tsp Agave Syrup.

Combine all three in a cuisinart and blend until you like the consistency.

A low sugar (protect the brain) delicious way to get your flavanols, and it is cheaper than cocoa via bars.

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