OSSINING, N.Y., March 19, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Known for giving very sharp, lucid interviews, the late Walter Breuning at 114 was the oldest man in the world. He followed a Daily Intermittent Fasting plan, eating a large breakfast, smaller lunch and then fasting until the next morning. His eating plan resonates with Brain Booster members of LivingTheCRWay.com, who find that some time away from food improves brain function.
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Eating cocoa flavanols daily may improve mild cognitive impairment, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.
Each year, more than six percent of people aged 70 years or older develop mild cognitive impairment, a condition involving memory loss that can progress to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Flavanols can be found in tea, grapes, red wine, apples and cocoa products and have been associated with a decreased risk of dementia. They may act on the brain structure and function directly by protecting neurons from injury, improving metabolism and their interaction with the molecular structure responsible for memory researchers said. Indirectly, flavanols may help by improving brain blood flow.
In this study, 90 elderly participants with mild cognitive impairment were randomized to drink daily either 990 milligrams (high), 520 mg (intermediate) or 45 mg (low) of a dairy-based cocoa flavanol drink for eight weeks. The diet was restricted to eliminate other sources of flavanols from foods and beverages other than the dairy-based cocoa drink. Cognitive function was examined by neuro-psychological tests of executive function, working memory, short-term memory, long-term episodic memory, processing speed and global cognition.
- Scores significantly improved in the ability to relate visual stimuli to motor responses, working memory, task-switching and verbal memory for those drinking the high and intermediate flavanol drinks.
- Participants drinking daily higher levels of flavanol drinks had significantly higher overall cognitive scores than those participants drinking lower-levels.
- Insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress also decreased in those drinking high and intermediate levels of flavanols daily. Changes in insulin resistance explained about 40 percent of the composite scores for improvements in cognitive functioning.
“This study provides encouraging evidence that consuming cocoa flavanols, as a part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet, could improve cognitive function,” said Giovambattista Desideri, M.D., study lead author and director of Geriatric Division, Department of Life, Health and Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila in Italy. “The positive effect on cognitive function may be mainly mediated by an improvement in insulin sensitivity. It is yet unclear whether these benefits in cognition are a direct consequence of cocoa flavanols or a secondary effect of general improvements in cardiovascular function.”
The study population was generally in good health without known cardiovascular disease. Thus, it would not be completely representative of all mild cognitive impairment patients. In addition, only some clinical features of mild cognitive impairment were explored in the study.
“Given the global rise in cognitive disorders, which have a true impact on an individual’s quality of life, the role of cocoa flavanols in preventing or slowing the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia warrants further research,” Desideri said. “Larger studies are needed to validate the findings, figure out how long the positive effects will last and determine the levels of cocoa flavanols required for benefit.”
Co-authors are Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Ph.D.; Davide Grassi, M.D., Ph.D.; Stefano Necozione, M.D.; Lorenzo Ghiadoni, M.D.; Daniela Mastroiacovo, M.D.; Angelo Raffaele, M.D.; Livia Ferri, M.D.; Raffaella Bocale, M.D.; Maria Carmela Lechiara, M.D.; Carmine Marini, M.D. and Claudio Ferri, M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
Mars Inc. funded the study and provided the standardized cocoa drinks.
There are many different causes of dementia and, although its progression can be fast or slow, it is always degenerative. Symptoms of dementia include confusion, loss of memory, and problems with speech and understanding. It can be upsetting for both the affected person and their relatives and carers. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine shows that a regime of behavioral and mental exercises was able to halt the progression of dementia.
Researchers led by Prof. Graessel, from Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen, included in their study patients with dementia from five nursing homes in Bavaria. After random selection, half the patients were included on the year-long MAKS ‘intervention’ consisting of two hours of group therapy, six days a week. In addition all patients maintained their normal treatment and regular activities provided by the nursing home.
The MAKS system consists of motor stimulation(M), including games such as bowling, croquet, and balancing exercises; cognitive stimulation (K), in the form of individual and group puzzles; and practicing ‘daily living’ activities (A), including preparing snacks, gardening and crafts. The therapy session began with a ten minute introduction, which the researchers termed a ‘spiritual element’ (S), where the participants discussed topics like ‘happiness’, or sang a song or hymn.
After 12 months of therapy the MAKS group maintained their level on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale (ADAS) and, even more importantly maintained their ability to carry out activities of daily living, while the control group all showed a decrease in cognitive and functional ability.
Prof. Graessel explained, “While we observed a better result for patients with mild to moderate dementia, the result of MAKS therapy on ADAS (cognitive function) was at least as good as treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors. Additionally we found that the effect on the patients’ ability to perform daily living tasks (as measured by the Erlanger Test of Daily Living (E-ADL)) was twice as high as achieved by medication. This means that MAKS therapy is able to extend the quality of, and participation in, life for people with dementia within a nursing home environment. We are currently in the process of extending these preliminary results to see if this prevention of dementia decline can be maintained over a longer time period.”
Full bibliographic information Non-pharmacological, multicomponent group therapy in patients with degenerative dementia: a 12-month randomised, controlled trial, Elmar Graessel, Renate Stemmer, Birgit Eichenseer, Sabine Pickel, Carolin Donath, Johannes Kornhuber and Katharina Luttenberger, BMC Medicine (in press).