Entries in Flavanoids (2)


Chocolate Good for Heart and Soul -- And Mind?

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We all know that chocolate is comforting to the soul, but it may also be just as good for your body and mind.

A new study suggests that consuming more flavanol, a component of cocoa, improves cognitive function and blood pressure in elderly patients who have mild cognitive impairment.

In the study, elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment consumed drinks that were either low, intermediate or high in cocoa flavanol. Cognitive function -- including executive function, short-term and long-term memory, processing speed and overall thinking skills -- was tested after eight weeks. Scores improved in patients who drank intermediate and high levels of flavanol.

"This is the first dietary intervention study demonstrating that the regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment," wrote study author Giovambattista Desideri, associate professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of L’Aquila in Italy. The results add to a growing body of evidence that consuming moderate amounts of chocolate may be good for you -- and some health experts said the results appear encouraging.

"There is a large and growing body of evidence linking foods concentrated in bioflavanoids -- and cocoa specifically -- with beneficial health effects," says Dr. David Katz, director of medical public health studies at Yale University.

For example, a recent study found that dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart problems. Flavanols, which can also be found in tea and in dark fruits such as red grapes, cherries and apples, are also known to help with kidney function, weight problems, anemia, gout, diabetes and stroke.

Others, however, cautioned that the study falls short of a ringing endorsement for everyone who fears dementia to start loading up on chocolate. First of all, the study had no control group. In other words, people who consumed a large amount of the cocoa flavanols were compared to those who consumed less, not people who had consumed none at all.

Second, the eight-week trial was short.  Since flavonols are known to improve heart function in the short term, it is possible that the improvements in cognitive function were just a result of improved blood flow to the brain.

The improved cognition, "might…be due to favorable effects on blood pressure and blood flow," Katz said. "I have long recommended foods rich in bioflavanoids and have long pointed out that most cognitive impairment is, in fact, vascular disease."

Still, for chocolate-lovers, doctors agree that chocolate is a tasty and practical way to consume flavanol.

"Cocoa powder is probably the best way to get their flavanols, as it delivers the most flavanols with the least amount of calories," says Keith Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Though cocoa should not be used alone as a treatment for cognitive impairment, it may be a promising complementary approach to management of early dementia.

"As far as treatment, it could be offered to patients and families in a disease in which there is little in the way of good therapy," says Dr. Roger A. Brumback, a professor of pathology, psychiatry and neurology at Creighton University Medical Center.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What Citrus Means for Stroke Risk

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eating citrus fruits can be considered a marker of healthy living, and may lessen the risk of stroke, according to research published Thursday in the journal Stroke. But some experts said the numbers in the study didn’t quite add up.

The findings were part of the Nurses’ Health Study, which included nearly 70,000 women who were followed for 14 years, who reported on their fruit and vegetable intake every four years.

Those who reported consuming the greatest amount of citrus fruit had a 19-percent lower chance of having an ischemic stroke, which blocks blood flow to the brain.

The researchers looked for a compound commonly found in citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, called flavonoids.

The study did not specify how much citrus fruit a woman needed to consume a day to reach the purported flavonoid level of protection.  Neither did it conclude that the more citrus fruit one ate, the less the chance of stroke.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating two to four servings of any type of fruit a day.

While the risk of stroke was lower in those who ate citrus fruit, not all of the women’s flavonoid consumption came from citrus fruit. Flavonoids are also found in other types of fruit, vegetables, tea, dark chocolate and red wine.

The study also couldn’t conclude that the lower risk of stroke was necessarily due to the flavonoid found in citrus fruits.

“This study adds absolutely nothing to the relationship between fruit and strokes,” said ABC News’ chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser. “The conclusions of the study go beyond the data.”

Researchers noted that the women who consumed the most flavonoids smoked less, exercised more and ate better, suggesting they already had an overall healthier lifestyle.

“The things we know that are important for stroke prevention remain,” said Besser.

So researchers looked deeper into a type of flavonoid called flavanones, which are mainly found in citrus juices, oranges and grapefruits.

Researchers are more likely to find a connection the deeper they dig into the data, but the findings are not necessarily significant for women, said Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Previous studies have suggested that vitamin C and potassium, both found in citrus fruits, can also protect against heart disease and stroke, which may have also been figured into  the findings.

“It is impossible to disentangle the relative influence of all the constituents of citrus fruit,” the researchers wrote.

While many Americans get a majority of their daily fruit intake from juices, many experts advise bypassing the juices because of the added sugar and going straight to the source. Even though flavonoids are found in the juice of the fruit, the high number of  calories can offset the nutritional value of the juice, Ayoob said.

“You also lose all the fiber when you go to juice,” said Besser.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio