We refer, of course, to consumption of two famed aphrodisiacs. Often badmouthed for their addictive power (red wine) and their caloric punch (chocolate), each food has both health benefits of its own and a one-two wellness hit when consumed together. And scientific research worldwide has backed up these claims.
The antioxidant resveratrol, a polyphenol found in both cocoa and red wine, is responsible for both phenomena.
Most exciting is the likelihood that the combo may offset negative health (insulin resistance and loss of bone density) that can arise from our 21st-century lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyles. A team of French and American researchers found this correlation while studying lab rats in a weightless environment resembling outer space. In effect, resveratrol mimics some of the good effects of physical activity.
Another welcome benefit of resveratrol: it also improves brain functioning! Richard Alleyne, science correspondent for the Telegraph in Glasgow, Scotland, reports:
Two studies have shown that polyphenols in both wine and chocolate increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain that in turn could boost its power--especially in the elderly.
Northumbria University discovered this reaction in young students at peak for cognitive skills. They theorized that the benefits might apply productively in older adults as well.
Red wine (alcohol or none)
Studies point to the value of ordinary red wine in lowering blood pressure, but nonalcoholic red wine may make even a more significant difference! A Spanish study revealed this trend in men, but it's highly likely that the benefits extend to the fairer sex as well.
Followup research by Italian scientists with chocolate and people 70 or older who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (pre-Alzheimers) showed that even without other flavanols like wine, cognitive scores--especially memory--improved.
Blood pressure and insulin resistance also decreased in those who consumed high and medium doses of flavanol cocoa. The Cleveland Clinic has endorsed the finding that a little chocolate may be beneficial. The best choices: dark (not milk) chocolate and cocoa powder without Dutch processing.
So go ahead, add red wine and chocolate to your list of Valentine treats.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has been covering women's health for Examiner.com since the zine's official startup. She covered health issues with Olympic athletes, Sheryl Crow, Robin Roberts, Mary Tyler Moore, and other newsmaking celebs. Sandy has also reported the 2012-2013 influenza epidemic, top women's health news of 2012 (including prevention), and the fungal meningitis outbreak.
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