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Chocolate Improves Brain Health and Mood

A new scientific review of previous studies on chocolate's health benefits has concluded that chocolate can improve brain functioning and mood. 

There is now plenty of evidence to support cocoa flavanols in boosting various aspects of cognitive function. Epicatechin, the main flavonoid in cocoa, was likely responsible for such effects. The darker the chocolate, the higher the epicatechin content (this was the compound related to increased physical endurance in THIS study).

Perhaps not surprisingly, “Chocolate also induces positive effects on mood and is often consumed under emotional stress,” added the author of the study. She said that chocolate could stimulate the release of endorphins, which enhance the pleasure of eating.

Source: The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance

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Related posts on chocolate:


Vitamin D2 vs D3: Which is Better?

Rarely do I cover two studies on the same day, but today I've got 2 interesting vitamin D studies to share with you. Click HERE to read the other.

"Vitamin D" refers to two biologically inactive precursors: D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol). Both precursors are transformed in the liver and kidneys into 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D, the non-active storage form, and the compound measured to assess vitamin D status).  25(OH)D is further converted to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D, the biologically active form) in a process that's tightly controlled by the body.

Although many researchers and experts agree that many people are vitamin D deficient and need supplementation, there remains a big question mark as to the most effective form.

African Americans Need 4000 IU of Vitamin D3 Daily

Today, I'm covering two separate studies on vitamin D. Click HERE to read the other.

Over 90% of African Americans may have vitamin D deficiency, and according to a new study, 4000 IU/day may be needed to eliminate that deficiency.

The researchers studied 47 African American and Caucasian men with an average age of 64 to participate in their study. All participants received a daily dose of 4000 IU of vitamin D3 for one year.

Results showed that, at the start of the study, over 90% of African Americans were deficient (as measured by 25(OH)D, the non-active storage form of vitamin D) and about 66% had very low levels (below 20 ng/mL).


Exercise Benefits Cognitive Health

Various forms of physical activity, including resistance training (e.g. weights) and walking, can increase cognitive functioning in elderly adults, including those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI, the precursor to Alzheimer's disease), according to four new studies presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2012.

Results showed that resistance training (free weights) had significantly higher scores on the Stroop test (measures selective attention and conflict resolution) compared with the control group. For the Rey's Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), aerobic exercise (which consisted of outdoor walking) showed significant improvement over the control group.

Another study presented at the conference showed that healthy people in the walking group had a 2% increase in their hippocampus (part of the brain) compared with a 1.5% decrease in the stretching and toning group.


Iron Supplements for Unexplained Fatigue

A new study suggests a daily iron supplement may be indicated for women who have unexplained fatigue, yet whose blood tests for iron-deficiency anemia may look normal. 

Although the women in the study didn't have anemia, they did have borderline levels of ferritin (the protein that stores iron in the body).

For the study, a daily dose of 80 milligrams of iron (as iron sulfate) or placebo was administered to almost 200 women for 12 weeks. This treatment was associated with a 48% decrease in fatigue scores (compared to a decrease of 29% in the placebo group). It also increased haemoglobin levels and ferritin levels.

That's quite a high dose of iron considering these women didn't have outright anemia. However, what this suggests is that we should consider revising our definition of iron-deficiency to place more emphasis on ferritin. Especially since iron deficiency (in various parts of the body, like the brain)--as this study demonstrated--can present without anemia (which is an iron deficiency in the blood).

Source: Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial 

Other posts related to fatigue:

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E-Complex: Tocopherols and Tocotrienols

So since I had gotten a lot of positive feedback on the vitamin K for newborns article, and since I haven't found any interesting new studies to share with you recently, I thought I'd fill up this lull in activity with another article I wrote. Now, please keep in mind, that the following article was written back in 2005, and I know there's been a lot more studies on vitamin E since then (although, I don't think anything that would contradict what I have below).

This article was written for the purpose of publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and after I was done, I sent this to a friend who was suppose to edit it and expand the introduction section (in return for being the second author). For this reason, you'll notice the article being a lot more technical and science-geeky than I usually write in this blog (i.e. it was never meant for a general audience)..

I don't recall exactly what happened--probably "life" just getting in the way again--but we both eventually forgot about this and it never got submitted. So, here it is for your reading enjoyment. YOU are the peer-review...


Soy OK for Breast Cancer Survivors

A couple years ago, I remember reading a study that showed women who had breast cancer could safely consume soy products. I remember this was big news since soy isoflavones have phyto-estrogenic activity so it's standard practice for these women to avoid soy-based products.