Feature Article of Monday, 16 March 2015

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Evidence Continues to Mount that Cocoa Flavanols Boost Cognitive Function

Cognitive function improves with a diet high in cocoa flavanols – reaffirmed by Dr. Desideri and Mars Inc.
Apart from other benefits of cocoa, Dr. Giovambattista Desideri from Italy’s University of L’Aquila and Mars, Incorporated have reaffirm cognitive function improvement with their January 6, 2015 publication in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), “Cognitive function is improved with a diet high in cocoa flavanols-a group of naturally occurring bioactives found in fresh cocoa beans”.
It is normal for cognitive function to slightly deteriorate with age. Memory capacity begins to worsen, along with processing speed and the ability to form long-term memories. Finding a way to defer the onset of these issues becomes increasingly important as life expectancy gets longer and global populations age.
This study, conducted by researchers from Italy’s University of L’Aquila and Mars, Incorporated, reinforces the results of several recent cognitive studies-throwing more light on the important role diet plays in maintaining cognitive health. Dr. Giovambattista Desideri, lead author on the paper, said, “The results of this study are encouraging-they support the idea that diet, and specifically a diet rich in cocoa flavanols, can play an important role in maintaining cognitive health as we age.”
Over the past decade, there has been significant evidence indicating that consuming cocoa flavanols improves vascular function. Dr. Catherine Kwik-Uribe, human health and nutrition director at Mars, Incorporated, and co-author on this latest study, said, “Since the brain is a heavily vascularized tissue, we might also be looking at vascular improvements as underlying the observed improvements in cognitive function.”
Details of the article is fund at the link below in cases you want to read more.

Sayings like “some yearn to have but are not close to having”, “some have and they do not appreciate”, and “a bird in hand is worth two (2) in the bush” in short, are reminders for one to appreciate and treasure what is in hands or around. Hence, Ghanaians should appreciate the health treasures of the land including the miraculous tree “Theobroma Cacao” which we normally refer to as cocoa.
We all know that aging presents its own problems which cognitive function decline among others results in dementia and memory loss. The above article shows that regularly consuming cocoa flavanols may defer or delay the rate of cognitive function decline in people with early signs.
With technological advancement in health there is an overall increased life expectancies which delaying cognitive functions decline is beneficial to save money, time and productivity. Early dementia occurrence and higher population of dementia in a nation means huge money use or wastages for caring for these patients involving drugs, time, facilities, as well as no productive work derived from these victims. Hence, cognitive function decline deference to match with the increased life expectancies is beneficial for the economic health of a nation.
Cognitive decline does not affect all individuals equally and there exist clear associations between the rate, severity and a variety of factors. Cognitive decline is a fact of life, however, the onset may vary from person to person based on lifestyle and exposure to other accelerators. Cocoa abounds in Ghana which there have been significant evidence of cocoa and cacao to defer cognitive function decline. From the Ghanaian sayings “most excellent meats associated with bile” so as cocoa having several benefits including deferring dementia, protecting ones heart, skin, regulating blood pressure, and even one’s stress levels does not necessitates consuming all types of cocoa products. Note that there are some marked nutritional differences between cocoa and cacao even though both satisfy the cravings for chocolate. The subsequent paragraph presents some differences between cocoa and cacao.
On one hand, cacao is raw and purest form, and much less processed than cocoa powder or chocolate. The bitterness of raw cacao is as results of its acid content. Cacao has been used through many cultures for its health purpose, since, it is rich in antioxidants and magnesium. Cacao butter having similar appearance to white chocolate with buttery texture is removed in the process of producing raw cacao powder. Cacao nibs is essentially cacao beans that have been chopped up into edible pieces, much like chocolate chips without the added sugars and fats. Cacao nibs contain all of the fiber, fat, and nutrients contained in the cacao bean. Cacao paste is basically cacao nibs that have been slowly heated to preserve the nutrients and are melted into a bark that is a less-processed form of dark chocolate bars. Cacao powder contains more fiber and calories than cocoa powder since more of the nutrients from the whole bean are still intact. Cacao is an exceptional source of natural carbohydrates, cholesterol-free saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein that make it an excellent source of nutrients.
On the other hand, cocoa refers to heated forms of cacao, very common and found in most shops in the form of cocoa powder. Although, cocoa may seem inferior to raw cacao, it still have very good health benefits and inexpensive if one selects the varieties without sugars and milk fats or oils. The production processes of cocoa and cacao are similar except processing of cocoa is involved with higher temperatures. Despite the involved processing high temperatures, cocoa still retains substantial amounts of necessary components for health benefits and makes cocoa powder a rich source of fiber, and has little amounts fat and protein. Dutch-processed cocoa powder is produced when cacao powder is processed with alkaline solution in an effort to reduce the bitterness from the acidity to improve on taste. The resulting cocoa powder from the process of alkalization is dark. In comparison, regular cocoa powder retains a more acidic nature and bitter taste, whereas Dutch-processed cocoa powder is not as a results of the alkalization process.
In conclusion, both cacao and cocoa are highly nutritious and they both have the capability to satisfy one’s cravings for chocolate. Cacao is preferred if one want more nutrients with high calories and high antioxidants, however, if one want less calories and a decent source of antioxidants then cocoa. One should be on the lookout for the added sugar and fats to cocoa products, and often advisable to buy plain cocoa powder or Dutch-processed cocoa powder which one can regulate the sugar to taste. The above shows that one has to be careful in consuming cacao and cocoa products for the derived benefits.
God bless.

Alexander Anim-Mensah, PhD
Dayton, Ohio
In case you want to read more on cacao and cocoa below are some links;