Back at it again with a Boost Your Brain! Today, it’s going to be about food that everyone loves! I mean, I don’t know of a person that doesn’t. In this article – “How does blueberries and chocolate help with your cognitive functions?” “How much are you suppose to eat?” and more. There are going to be links, to the studies I have been getting some of the information from, bellow the article.
What makes chocolate chocolate, is cocoa bean. It has been used for centuries, latest we know of is in ancient cultures of South America. Today, it is generally known, at least I think it is, to help with brain and maybe to give it a little bit energy, use when your head hurts or after an exhausting cognitive task. It is even mentioned in Harry Potter by Lupin, who is giving Harry dark chocolate after his encounter with dementor. There is some truth in all of that.
That’s the shit what we want! That’s the main substance which is causing the cognitive enhancing properties in cocoa, therefore in chocolate. Other substances are involved, such as coffein, which there isn’t much of it, but still. The thing is, we have been able to know only handful of the substances which are causing some of the benefits. It’s a plant made from the universe (yes universe, I was trying to reduce it to something like earth or so, but earth is part of the universe anyway) and it’s always going to be somewhat complex and we cannot possibly know every single substance which plays a role in human body afterwards.
Flavanoids acts like an antioxidant and have neuroprotective properties. These again (like in this latest boost your brain article), means protection against neurodegenerative diseases (Preserving cognitive abilities in aging rats) and enhancing memory! They increase blood flow after entering the brain, therefore you have more of an oxygen available and so on. This too is thought to be a reason for the enhancement of cognitive functions.
Chocolate also protects against neuronal death and increase in generation of new neurons! Chocolate has some mood enhancing properties. It might be useful after or during exhausting cognitive tasks such as tests in school. There is also a finding of enhanced synaptic plasticity, which might also be the reason for an improvement in memory. There are also some essential amino acids, which body is unable to synthesize, as well as serotonin and precursors to it. These might help with the mood enhancing properties.
Does this all mean you should immediately go and chuck down a bar of chocolate? Well, as much as I wish that was the case, unfortunately it is not. Obviously, chocolate contains sugars and fats, which might counter the benefits at higher doses. The long-term benefits studies were done with dose of one serving per day which is around 26 grams. It is also very important which chocolate you have. The best ones are with higher percentage of cocoa in them. The, advantage is in the cocoa so, some of the milk chocolates might actually be a disadvantage all together, because of the high sugar and low cocoa composition.
That is again, complex plant. There are many studies done, but we still have no idea what all the substances in the plants are doing exactly. There are flavanoids (yes, these guys again), like in cocoa, which are presumably causing some of the benefits.
These are specific flavanoids in the blueberries. They are the thing which makes up the blueberry color. This compound is in all dark and red plants such as eggplant, raspberries and blackberries. Number of studies show both long and short term effects of blueberries. There was a large study which showed enhancement in cognitive functions. One of the scientists told that it has a moderate effect and in some cases even very significant performance improvement in a few of the cognitive tasks. People were given the cognitive tests right before supplementation and then after 12, 16 and even 24 weeks. Again, we can see improvement in memory which is one of the most important cognitive functions, for me at least.
Blueberries have antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties which are very valuable to us. I have written much about inflammation in this article, so check it out if you haven’t already. Blueberries should also help fight with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s thanks to the neuroprotective properties.
There has been shown an increase of CREB protein in animal studies, mainly in some parts of hippocampus which also plays a role in short term memory formation. CREB protein increases expression of some pretty beneficial genes such as BDNF and VGF. VGF is nerve growth factor, which helps with regulating energy homeostasis, metabolism and increasing synaptic plasticity. You can find information on BDNF in the latest Boost Your Brain article about exercise. CREB itself is well-documented for it’s role in the neuronal plasticity and long term memory!
Woah, I mean that for me, is fucking amazing. Again, it doesn’t mean you should just eat ONLY blueberries for the rest of your life, but it’s been suggested that half a cup of either fresh or even frozen blueberries 4 or 5 times a week should be just enough for these benefits.
One last thing which is appealing to me, there was a study which looked at the glycemic spike after an ingestion of a meal. Normally you have this spike of sugar in your blood after you eat something, and when the subjects have eaten blueberry supplement (equal to whole blueberry) with the meal, they didn’t get the sugar spike which is harmful in a several ways.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this article, and now you have two more foods which you can eat a little bit of every day. The best way to do it is probably getting rid of some harmful foods and just eat a little bit of chocolate or blueberries instead!
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Links to the studies and sites I have been getting information from: