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We all know that coffee has been our company when we are not sleeping, and, at least for women, chocolate has been our emotional support. It turns out that our "go-to" may be helping our brains, too. Perhaps the answer to creating superhuman intelligence lies in coffee and chocolate. Can coffee and chocolate increase your intelligence? This is what the researchers reveal.
COFFEE AND COCOA: THE CHEMICAL CORRELATION FOR BRAIN HEALTH
When we think of any chemicals that coffee and cocoa have in common, caffeine is what comes to mind. We tend to group all the benefits of coffee into caffeine, and with cocoa or chocolate, we can remember different reports on flavonoids. However, both have other chemicals that have been shown to increase our cognitive ability and protect our brain.
COFFEE AS A COGNITIVE DRIVER AND PROTECTOR
Coffee contains 6 active ingredients that contribute differently to the health of our brain. Caffeine is just one of them. The 6 chemicals are:
1 - CAFFEINE:
It contains an alkaloid called methylxanthine. This chemical in caffeine is believed to disrupt adenosine receptors or the receptors that tell us when to go to sleep. This disruption comes from the central nervous system. In fact, it's what provides temporary alertness, concentration, and better memory after drinking a cup of coffee. This disruption also allows dopamine to stay in the system longer, giving us a constant dose of feel good. However, when a person drinks too much coffee, it causes irritability and nervousness.
2 - CHLOROGENIC ACID:
This is a chemical found in green coffee beans or unroasted beans. Once the beans are roasted, the chlorogenic acid practically disappears. Many believe that it is an aid to reduce the absorption of carbohydrates in our digestive system, reducing blood sugar and insulin production. Some studies in rats also demonstrated an ability to reduce fat absorption and storage.
3 - QUINIC ACID:
This acid is produced as chlorogenic acid breaks down in the roasting process. It helps in the production of tryptophan and nicotinamide in the intestine, which is essential for DNA repair. When mixed with intestinal bacteria, it can also be converted to any of them.
4 - CAFFEIC ACID:
This acid is where scientists believe some of coffee's antioxidant properties originate. Caffeic acid is part of the polyphenol family. They are recognized for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
5 - QUERCETINE:
Other polyphenols and flavonoids. Contributes to the antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties of coffee. It is also recognized for preventing the degradation of lipids from free radicals, allowing blood clotting, the flow of nutrients through blood vessel walls, and stimulating the massive formation of mitochondria.
6 - PHENYLINDANE:
This chemical has recently been found to act as a dual inhibitor on two major proteins, which have been linked to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's, Amyloid B and Tau. These proteins work together to create plaques in brain neurons and then entangle the synapses that connect the communication process between neurons. Amyloid B becomes toxic and feeds on Tau to create a toxic cycle that kills or makes neurons sick. This effectively stops neurons from working to allow you to process information, communicate, access your memory, and more.
THE COFFEE COCKTAIL FOR ENHANCED COGNITION
While the active chemicals listed above are recognized for certain traits, how they bind or become more affective is still being investigated. Several studies have identified possible correlations.
In the case of phenylindane and the inhibition of the two proteins related to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, a recent study showed an interesting factor. A study in Frontiers in Neuroscience, conducted by Donald Weaver and his partners at the Krembil Research Institute in Toronto, ON, Canada, found that phenylindane production was correlated with the roasting process.
The longer the coffee beans are roasted, the more phenylindane it produces, which shows that dark roast coffees contain the highest concentration. Whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated did not seem to be a factor in its effectiveness. Therefore, science rules out caffeine as a contributor.
Another study included the combined attributes of caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid in our intelligence and brain protective ability. Ikuko Miyaki and her team at Okayama University's Department of Medical Neurobiology conducted a study of caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid in rotenone. Rotenone is a mitochondrial inhibitor that can cause symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease when it releases toxins.
The scientists injected the mice with rotenone and then treated them with caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid to assess the effects. They found that the acids enhanced the antioxidant response of glial cells, thus preventing rotenone from creating degeneration in the brain.
In general, the dominant chemicals in substances related to coffee or caffeine have been shown to increase cognitive function, protect neurons through an antioxidant response, and decrease inflammation. The healthier our neurons, the better our plasticity to make new connections and learn.
CHOCOLATE THAT INCREASES OUR INTELLIGENCE
Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate or cocoa, has the same wonderful benefits that we get from caffeine. Plus, it adds a bonus: flavonoids from the flavonoid family. Flavanols work as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.
Flavonoids can cross the blood-brain barrier and be stored in areas of the brain that affect learning and memory, such as the hippocampus, cerebral cortex, cerebellum, and striatum. Flavonoids can communicate directly with neurons and synapses in the brain. This serves both to protect and to enhance, either by increasing protein production to create new neurons or by protecting existing ones. This ability lends itself to help prevent Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.
Researchers already show that flavonoids contribute to heart and vascular health. Healthy blood flow is not only necessary for the body, it is also crucial for the development and health of our brain.
One study sought to investigate the effects of cocoa on our cognitive function in the areas of attention, memory, and executive function. Valentina Socci, from the University of L’Aquila in Italy, led the study. He and his team looked at several previous studies and analyzed the results.
What they discovered was:
- -Dark chocolate can produce an immediate improvement in cognitive function, just like coffee.
- -High levels of flavanol in dark chocolate demonstrated better spatial working memory and reaction times.
- -Improved visual information processing with high levels of flavanol.
- -Beneficial cognitive ability to perform tasks with lack of sleep (in women)
- -Real dark chocolate or high flavanols had stronger cognitive enhancements than chocolate milk drinks or other low flavanol drinks.
- -In all cases, it improves cardiovascular and vascular circulation in the brain. Some indications of insulin resistance.
- -There are no signs of behavioral changes due to ingestion of cocoa
One of the important factors to consider here is that the benefits were strongest in dark chocolate, and the higher the cocoa percentage, the better. Milk chocolate, white chocolate, or chocolate drinks produced a low flavanol count and therefore poor results in cognitive enhancement.
FINAL THOUGHTS TO BOOST COGNITIVE FUNCTION WITH COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE
In general, both coffee and dark chocolate or cocoa prove to have a significant impact on our cognitive abilities. In addition, they help protect our neurons in our brains. They both have antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that work in our brains to reduce damage from stress, age, and even injury. The various chemicals interact with proteins to aid in the creation of new neurons, the ability of neurons to communicate with each other and open new synapses for better learning.
Scientists continue to investigate the question of whether coffee and chocolate can increase our intelligence. And, the results are incredibly encouraging in many ways. While these studies are just the beginning, and there are many variables to consider, I will be more than happy to continue drinking my cups of coffee and sipping chocolate.
By the way, the best recommended amount of coffee is six 230cc cups a day. Most of us don't drink out of 230cc glasses anymore; you will most likely only need 4 cups a day. To make it even more beautiful, you can really amplify your brain and put cocoa in your coffee for an added boost! By chance, if you are one of those who does not like coffee, black tea or Chai tea can also provide benefits to stimulate your brain.