Sweet Science: Chocolate & Red Wine Are Better Brainfoods When Enjoyed Together
After dinner indulgence is no longer a luxury you need to deny yourself. Research has long shown that wine¹ and chocolate increase your cognitive capacities, but newer research is suggesting that the benefits will pack more of a punch when the two are paired together.
As the human life span increases, more studies on aging are being done, particularly in regards to age-related cognitive decline, like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Researchers are seeking to establish links between many lifestyle factors, including diet. Fruits and beverages such as tea, red wine, cocoa, and coffee are major dietary sources of polyphenols, which are micronutrients found in plant-based foods. The largest subclass of polyphenols is flavonoids, found in chocolate, wine, and tea. It’s been previously reported that those who consume flavonoids regularly have lower incidents of dementia.
In 2008, researchers from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics studied the effects of foods with flavonoids on cognitive capacity in older adults. A sample of 2,031 people between the ages of 70 and 74 filled out a survey
about their habitual food intake, followed by a battery of cognitive tests. Those who answered that they consumed chocolate, wine, or tea on a regular basis had significantly better test scores and lower prevalence of poor cognitive performance than those who did not.
Now, new research from Northumbria University show that resveratrol, another micronutrient in red wine, increases blood flow to the brain. ”Greater improvements may be seen in the elderly,” said researcher Emma Wightman, “because blood flow to the brain naturally decreases with age- and even more so with the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.”
Wightman also believes that they key may be to take more than one type of polyphenol at the same time. A study carried out by another researcher, Dr. Crystal Haskell, provided a basis for this theory. Dr. Haskell’s study involved putting participants through arithmetic tests, much like the study on resveratrol. Instead of wine, however, she gave them hot chocolate with a variety of different polyphenols. Not only did they do the sums more accurately after drinking the hot chocolate, they also did them more quickly, and were more alert, suggesting that the polyphenols were able to counteract the mental fatigue brought on by doing the intensive arithmetic.
Pass me the wine, please- and why not have dessert first? Studies also show that consuming dark chocolate cut back on cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods.
Life is short, so be sweet to yourself and your brain- Have your wine and chocolate together, and eat dessert first.
1. While moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better cognitive function and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, heavy alcohol intake could be one of many causes of dementia – as well as a host of other health problems. Drink responsibly.