Dementia – Dementia is a complex illness. Physiological, genetic, and nutritional elements may play a role in the development of certain forms of dementia. For example, it appears Alzheimer’s disease may occur due to a buildup of beta-amyloid proteins in the brain, which disrupts normal function. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology found animal models of dementia may develop due to excess sugar consumption. The excess sugar is thought to cause an insulin reaction that might increase deposits of beta-amyloid proteins and increase the risk of developing dementia.
Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker, she spent many years navigating the choppy waters of burnout and trying to stay balanced in a demanding world. Her mission is to offer practical tips and techniques from her own trial and error process, so that you can live your best life! Follow Eleanor on Facebook and keep in touch with her at [email protected].
Another possible allergen to watch out for in dark chocolate (even organic brands) is soy lecithin, which is commonly added as an emulsifying agent. Soy lecithin does contain trace amounts of soy proteins, and these have been found to include soy allergens. However, soy lecithin does not appear to contain sufficient soy protein residues to induce allergic reactions in the majority of soy-allergic consumers. (26)
But there are lesser-known reasons you should indulge in the (bitter)sweet stuff. Dark chocolate has been scientifically proven to keep your brain sharp, your ticker ticking and your skin shielded from the sun’s harmful rays (yes, really). Dark chocolate can be the key to beating that midday slump, accoriding to a new study from Northern Arizona University found.
The research included information that animal studies have found the hippocampus, which is an area in the brain associated with memory, may be affected by refined sugar. Two studies were conducted in the published report. In the first study, participants that self-reported eating a high-sugar diet had poorer performance on hippocampal related memory tasks. In the second study, the results were replicated. The second study also revealed that the effect of high sugar consumption on memory appears to be directly related to the hippocampal region and no other areas which may also affect memory, such as the prefrontal cortex.
When we’re under stress, our bodies immediately kick into fight-or-flight mode, releasing large amounts of hormones. Surprisingly, the body has the same chemical response when blood sugar is low. After you eat a sweet snack, stress hormones begin to compensate for the crash by raising your blood sugar. The result? Unexplained anxiousness, irritability, and even shakiness.
Forget carrots—dark chocolate can improve your eyesight too, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. The researchers found that participants who consumed dark chocolate with 720 mg of cocoa flavanols experienced enhanced visual performance—like detecting motion and reading low contrast letters—likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and brain. 
The American Heart Association, along with the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic, recommend getting antioxidants from whole foods and a wide variety of foods. While it’s always ideal, and usually more beneficial, to get antioxidants or other nutrients directly from real food sources, certain types may also be helpful when consumed in supplement form.
After water, tea and coffee are the two most consumed beverages in the world, although consumption patterns vary between countries. Because of the fairly high content of antioxidants and the frequent use, coffee and tea are important antioxidant sources in many diets. Several different compounds contribute to coffee's antioxidant content, e.g., caffeine, polyphenols, volatile aroma compounds and heterocyclic compounds, [25,50-52]. Many of these are efficiently absorbed, and plasma antioxidants increase after coffee intake [50,53]. In green tea, the major flavonoids present are the monomer catechins, epigallocatechin gallate, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epicatechin. In black tea the polymerized catechins theaflavin and thearubigen predominate in addition to quercetin and flavonols [54,55].
If you have high blood sugar, you could be on the road to diabetes already. “Insulin resistance requires the pancreas to produce more insulin since tissues are not as sensitive to it,” Ed Saltzman, MD, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University says. “Over time, the pancreas can become fatigued by this excess production and stop being able to secrete adequate insulin. When this occurs, type 2 diabetes may develop.” These are the sneaky sources of added sugar you don’t realize you’re eating.
I often hear the argument that sugar is ok in moderation and that eliminating any “food group” is dangerous. Certainly, avoiding an actual macronutrient category completely (carbohydrate, protein or fat) would be problematic, but sugar in itself is not a food group. Though sugar in some form is naturally present in many foods, by itself, it contains:
Observational studies support the benefits of cocoa flavanols. The link between blood pressure and high cocoa intake was described in a study of the Kuna Indians, an isolated tribe who live on the Caribbean Coast of Panama. [5] Hypertension was extremely uncommon in this group, even among older ages, and even with a dietary salt intake that is greater than most Western populations. When the Kuna migrated to urban environments and changed their diets, their rates of high blood pressure increased. Notably, their traditional intake of cocoa as a beverage was very high, at more than five cups daily of either home-grown or Columbian cocoa powder rich in flavanols. The urinary levels of flavanols in the island-dwelling Kuna were significantly higher and their rates of death from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes significantly lower than their counterparts living in urban centers.
For good reason. It feels decadent, tastes great, and has researched healthy benefits (1) (2) (3). One small study showed participants ate less junk food after eating dark chocolate. This did not happen with milk chocolate. Another small study showed food intake following dark chocolate consumption was significantly lower than when eating milk or white chocolate (ref).
The sugar you consume enters the blood stream as part of the body’s natural process. The more refined sugar you consume, the higher your blood sugar levels rise. All of that sugar heads to the heart, where studies show it can cause damage to the vital muscle. The sugar may stress the heart and affect functioning. It can cause inflammation of the artery linings. Over
Lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, oral and skin cancers have been demonstrated to be suppressed by retinoic acid. (9) Another study collected numerous references demonstrating the findings of retinoic acid in protection against melanoma, hepatoma, lung cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer. However, there’s evidence indicating that the benefits of chemicals like retinoic acid are safest when obtained from food naturally, rather than supplements.

An ongoing 40-year study on the effects of chocolate on cognitive function was recently finished. The study used data from the beginning of the study and compared it through cross-sectional study. This might not mean that chocolate makes people smarter—perhaps smart people happen to eat chocolate. Regardless, the study also concluded that all the types of intelligence measured previously were increased by chocolate consumption—along with spoken word recall. 
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated flavonoid-rich dark chocolate’s ability to improve cognitive ability, specifically in the elderly. This cross-sectional study of over 2,000 participants ages 70 to 74 years old looked at the relationship between the intake of chocolate, wine and tea (all rich in flavonoids) and cognitive performance. The study concludes that “intake of flavonoid-rich food, including chocolate, wine, and tea, is associated with better performance across several cognitive abilities and that the associations are dose dependent.” The researchers suggest that further studies should take into account other bioactive dietary substances in chocolate, wine and tea to ensure that it’s their flavonoid content that helps the brain so much. (9)
When it comes to your bone health, yet again salt is the white crystal in shining armor. When we cut our salt intake, to the level that every dietary guideline tells us to, this can cause calcium and magnesium depletion from the body. When our intake of salt goes down, the body seems to pull sodium as well as calcium and magnesium from the bone, likely increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Low salt diets also increase the loss of magnesium in sweat—the body pushing out more magnesium instead of sodium in order to conserve low sodium reserves. All of this can take its toll on the health of our bones. In fact, consuming more salt may protect your bones, whereas consuming a diet high in sugar is clearly harmful. The next time you decide to reach for the sugar bowl, think twice, grabbing the salt shaker instead just may end up saving your life.
To date, studies have confirmed that chronic inflammation contribute to factors that increase your risk of developing cancer, including DNA mutations and cancer cell growth. Research has confirmed that the antioxidants in dark chocolate have a strong ability to fight the DNA damage that could lead to cancer development, as well as reduce certain inflammation enzymes that could encourage its growth (12).
Every single one of us has both antioxidants and free radicals present inside of our bodies at all times. Some antioxidants are made from the body itself, while we must get others from our diets by eating high antioxidant foods that double as anti-inflammatory foods. Our bodies also produce free radicals as byproducts of cellular reactions. For example, the liver produces and uses free radicals to detoxify the body, while white blood cells send free radicals to destroy bacteria, viruses and damaged cells.
It’s helpful to understand a little about how sugar is used by the brain. The carbohydrates you eat, including sugars, are broken down into glucose. Your brain needs glucose to function properly. Unfortunately, many people eat much more sugar than they need. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average American eats the equivalent of about 42 teaspoons of sugar a day. That added sugar comes from various sources, such as table sugar, baked goods, and sugary drinks.
A recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate high amounts of chocolate — about two candy bars per week — had a 20 percent lower risk of stroke. In a similar study, British researchers also found that people who ate more chocolate were 30 percent less likely to have a stroke. However, researchers added that more study is needed to determine the exact amount and types of flavonoid-rich chocolates that would be most help lessen stroke risk.
So how do antioxidants improve our health? Consider that your cells are constantly producing a variety of harmful chemicals called free radicals. In addition, your body is also exposed to free radicals in the environment—cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight, for example. These free radicals trigger a process called “oxidative stress,” which damages cells. Oxidative stress is implicated in the aging process and also in many chronic diseases, from cancer to cardiovascular diseases, and from diabetes to dementia.

One of the effects of sugar on the body is that it could make your depression worse, according to research. “I like to tell my patients there’s a truth to the saying, ‘You are what you eat,’” says psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Depression in Later Life. “High levels of sugar in the form of simple carbohydrates leads to spikes and crashes in glucose levels, which can worsen mood, increase irritability, agitation, irregular sleeping, and increase inflammation.” Instead, munch on lean protein, complex carbs, and foods with omega-3s, folate, and B vitamins.
Some nutrients are destroyed in the process of making chocolate available for the general market. Make sure the chocolate you buy is within the healthy range. Check the label: Chocolate with a 60 percent or higher cocoa content is packed full of nutrients and antioxidants. Often called bittersweet, it has minimal sugar. The best way to get all the nutrients from chocolate is simply to use unsweetened cocoa nibs. The bitter, crunchy, seed-like snack isn't the best-tasting treat, but its nutritional profile makes it worthwhile.

Just empty and quickly digested calories that actually pull minerals from the body during digestion. It creates a hormone cascade when consumed that starts a positive feedback loop in the body to encourage more consumption. In a time when food was scarce and needed to be contained in large amounts in the summer when available to survive the winter, this was a good thing. In today’s world of constant access to processed foods, this natural biological purpose highlights one of the negative effects of sugar. Here’s why:
People with high levels of sugar consumption are much more likely to become obese or overweight, no matter what age — even children. In fact, children who drink a serving of sugar-sweetened beverage daily have a 60 percent greater chance of become obese. This sets your child up for a lifetime of being overweight or obese — plus, all of the potential health
What your dentist told you when you were a kid is true. “Oral bacteria love sugar just like we do, and when they feast on it, acid gets released as a byproduct,” says Dr. Sanda Moldovan, DDS. “This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth and allows bacteria to penetrate into the deeper layer of the tooth structure, called dentin.” The more sugar you eat, the more acidic the mouth becomes and the faster cavities develop. Plus, sugar feeds yeast growth, which might make the corners of your mouth or tongue red. “This also comes with a velcro-like feeling, or sensitivity to spicy foods,” she says. The sugar link is also a reason why diabetes is one of the diseases your teeth can reveal.

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Scientists believe when we eat plant foods (luscious dark chocolate comes from the cacao plant) rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, their benefits are passed on to us. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules thought to be responsible for aging and some diseases. “When you have too many free radicals in your body, they start to attack your cells, and that can lead, over time, to low-grade inflammation and to some diseases — cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s,” DuBost says.
The Kuna Indians of the San Blas islands of Panama, who drink roughly three cups of a cacao beverage daily and have a very low prevalence of hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke compared to those on the mainland, are a good example of chocolate’s benefits at work. In addition, studies have found that their blood pressure doesn’t rise with age (4).
Studies have found that high intakes of vitamin A, vitamin C and other antioxidants could help prevent or treat several forms of cancer thanks to their ability to control malignant cells in the body and cause cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (destruction) of cancer cells. Retinoic acid, derived from vitamin A, is one chemical that plays important roles in cell development and differentiation as well as cancer treatment. 
Vitamin A and C have been connected to a decrease in the appearance of wrinkles and skin dryness. Vitamin C, specifically, is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce the effect of oxidative damage caused by pollution, stress or poor diet. Vitamin A deficiency has also been linked to skin dryness, scaling and follicular thickening of the skin. Similarly to how free radicals damage surface skin cells, keratinization of the skin, when the epithelial cells lose their moisture and become hard and dry, can occur in the mucous membranes of the respiratory, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.
Good news for all chocolate lovers! Chocolate is actually quite healthy so no need to feel guilty indulging in your chocolate love every now and then. Dark chocolates and cocoa pack a big antioxidant punch and are rich in flavanols and polyphenols. A popular study conducted by Harvard experts and published in the online Journal Heart suggests that is actually good for your heart especially, the one with 70% cocoa. Too much chocolate can, of course, add to you daily calorific intake so moderation is the key here.

Although it’s not conclusively proven to be addictive, sugar does seem to have that effect on the brain. “Energy-dense, sweet-tasting foods may lead to reinforcement of consuming those foods in a part of the brain called the limbic system,” Dr. Saltzman says. “In essence, we are training our brains to like and to want these sweet-tasting foods, and this may lead to increased consumption.” Dr. Malik also says sugar may stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain, similar to the way drugs do. Try these surprising ways to kick your sugar addiction.
Eleanor Healy is a writer with a passion for holistic health. As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Reiki Master/Teacher and former Child and Youth Care worker, she spent many years navigating the choppy waters of burnout and trying to stay balanced in a demanding world. Her mission is to offer practical tips and techniques from her own trial and error process, so that you can live your best life! Follow Eleanor on Facebook and keep in touch with her at [email protected].
Dark chocolate may have something in common with carrots: Researchers from the University of Reading in England tested the eyesight of 30 healthy adults, 18 to 25 years old, after they ate white and dark chocolates. The subjects performed better on vision tests after eating the dark chocolate. It could be that the flavanols in dark chocolate, which improve blood flow to the brain, improve blood flow to the retina as well — and white chocolate doesn’t have nearly the same amount of flavanols as dark chocolate.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition featured a study that found those with high levels of vitamin C in their blood had almost a 50 percent decreased risk of stroke. Countless studies also have found that people who consume highly plant-based diets — loaded with things like fresh veggies, herbs, spices and fruit — have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives with less heart disease. (6)
When you consume refined sugar, your sweet taste receptors signal the brain’s reward system in a way that is much more potent than consuming a piece of fruit—your brain lights up like a pinball machine due to the intense release of dopamine. Unfortunately, those sweet taste receptors don’t signal you to stop eating when you’ve had too much sugar. In fact, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave, creating a vicious cycle of sugar dependence. On the other hand, if you eat loads of the other white crystal (salt), your salt taste receptors "flip" and provide you with an aversion signal. In other words, if you consume too much salt in a meal, your body has a built-in safety mechanism causing you to crave less salt later in the day. Your body is extremely smart when it comes to regulating the intake of essential minerals, especially one as important as salt.
The FRAP assay of Benzie and Strain [13] was used with minor modifications that allowed quantification of most water- and fat-soluble antioxidants [16,17]. A Technicon RA 1000 system (Technicon instruments corporation, New York, USA) was used for the measurements of absorption changes that appear when the TPTZ-Fe3+ complex reduces to the TPTZ-Fe2+ form in the presence of antioxidants. An intense blue color with absorption maximum at 593 nm develops. The measurements were performed at 600 nm after 4 min incubation. An aqueous solution of 500 μmol/L FeSO4 × 7 H2O was used for calibration of the instrument. Validation of the assay is described in Halvorsen et al. 2002 [17]. Briefly, the within-day repeatability measured as relative standard deviation (RSD) in standard solutions ranged from 0.4% to 6%. The between-day repeatability was < 3%. The variation in the values for replicate food items obtained from the same source were typically between 3 and 10 RSD%.
Research shows that high antioxidant foods counteract the effects of oxidative stress. In fact, there are hundreds of different substances that act as antioxidants. The most recognizable among them are beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and manganese, glutathione, melatonin, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, flavonoids, and phytoestrogens.
In the recent years, this humble vegetable has created a lot of noise because of its cancer-fighting antioxidants. Out of all the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is one of the best sources of antioxidants like carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. The best way to have broccoli is to steam it. Remember that some antioxidants like Vitamin C are completely destroyed by heat while others like beta-carotene become more potent on cooking the vegetable.
Cuts down risks for heart disease – Eating dark chocolate a few times a week should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries and we should see a lower risk of heart disease over the long term. There are studies that revealed that eating chocolate 2 or more times per week greatly lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect. So regular consumption of dark chocolate can in fact reduce the risk of heart disease.

Of the over 4 million cancer patients being treated in the U.S. today, almost none are offered any scientifically guided nutrition therapy other than being told to "just eat good foods." Many cancer patients would have a major improvement in their conditions if they controlled the supply of cancer's preferred fuel: GLUCOSE. By slowing the cancer's growth, patients make it possible for their immune systems to catch up to the disease. Controlling one's blood-glucose levels through diet, exercise, supplements, meditation and prescription drugs - when necessary - can be one of the most crucial components to a cancer treatment program. The saying "Sugar feeds cancer" is simple. The explanation is a little more involved.
Due to the higher cocoa content, dark chocolate has a much richer flavor than milk chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the richer the taste. Cocoa is naturally bitter and very strong-tasting. Chocolate-makers (especially makers of milk chocolate) mellow this flavor by processes, such as alkalizing, fermenting, roasting, and adding milk and/or sugar, all of which can destroy healthy flavanols, alter our ability to use them or negate their health effects all together with unhealthy additives.
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