Chocolate is Brain Food

Woman eating a chocolate candy

Habitual chocolate intake supports mental health.

Healthy aging has a lot to do with having a nutrient-rich diet. The focus is usually on healthful foods, but there’s a favorite indulgence proving to be the key to graceful aging that you’re probably neglecting: chocolate.

According to a new study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet rich in cocoa can improve healthy cognitive function in older adults (1).

The double-blind study consisted of 90 elderly individuals with no signs of decreased mental function who were split into three groups: each group received a daily dietary supplement containing either a high, intermediate, or low dose of cocoa flavanols. Flavanols are the plant-derived compounds that have been the subject of extensive investigation examining their antioxidant properties and beneficial impact on cardiovascular health (2).

Before and after the eight-week study, the researchers measured markers of cognition in the subjects and made comparisons across groups. The group consuming high levels of flavanols showed significant improvements in their cognition scores, along with improved insulin sensitivity and blood pressure.

The researchers attributed the reduction in age-related mental dysfunction as the result of the improved insulin sensitivity. Previously, scientists speculated that flavanols played a role in cognitive health, especially with age, but had no real explanation as to why or how (2). This latest study suggests a possible mechanism as to how flavanols support brain function, possibly through improved insulin sensitivity.

Because of the rich composition of flavanols in cocoa, quality chocolate has become a popular target of study. Findings have also suggested that chocolate may be a beneficial tool for individuals seeking long-term, sustained weight loss (3), with daily consumption of chocolate with a high cocoa content, such as dark chocolate, being particularly advantageous (4).

With a growing body of research touting the benefits of habitual and moderate intake of cocoa flavanols, quality chocolates are increasingly seen as a useful tool to support weight loss and mental health.

References

  1. Mastroiacovo D, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, Necozione S, Raffaele A, Pistacchio L, Righetti R, Bocale R, Lechiara MC, Marini C, et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 101:538–48.
  2. Williams RJ, Spenncer JPE. Flavonoids, cognition, and dementia: Actions, mechanisms, and potential therapeutic utility for Alzheimer disease. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. Volume 52, Issue 1, 1 January 2012, Pages 35–45. doi:10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.09.010
  3. Bohannon J, Koch D, Homm P, Driehaus A. Chocolate with high cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator. Int Arch Med 2015; 8(55): 1-8.

 

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Are Your Telomeres Tired?

Research shows that poor sleep quality leads to shorter telomeres and premature aging.

Research shows that poor sleep quality leads to shorter telomeres and premature aging.

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together,” said the 17th-century writer Thomas Dekker. We all know that adequate and sufficient sleep is key to good health. But did you know that too little sleep or poor sleep quality can make you age faster?

Chronic lack of sleep is associated with a myriad of health conditions including obesity, depression, and asthma. So what is considered poor sleep? According to the National Sleep Foundation, seven to nine hours of quality sleep is recommended each night for adults (1). Despite this, approximately 35 percent of Americans report their sleep quality is “poor” or “fair.” While occasional sleeplessness, due to factors such as personal or job-related stress is expected, chronic, poor sleep patterns are increasingly considered a major factor for reduced health and quality of life.

But how exactly is sleep quality related to health? One reason may be due to how sleep affects telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes, that are a significant marker of cellular aging. As Isagenix Scientific Advisory Board member and telomere researcher Bill Andrews, Ph.D., says, “When telomeres shorten, bad things happen.” Indeed, previous research has linked shorter telomeres to poor sleep quality (2, 3).

Now, a recent study by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, including Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, have attempted to further characterize the relationship between sleep quality and telomere length, alongside another lifestyle factor implicated in telomere health—chronic stress.

This new study, published in the 2014 December issue of the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (4) included 87 obese subjects (BMI=35.4; 82 percent female) and looked at sleep quality, self-reported stress levels, and telomere length from several immune cell types (the best targets for measuring telomere length). They found that poor sleep quality was closely associated with significantly shorter telomeres in most immune cell types.

In addition, the role of stress was examined and for individuals under higher stress, poor sleep quality and shorter telomeres were positively associated. The authors concluded that poorer sleep quality was related to telomere length and that this relationship may provide clues linking poor sleep quality to poor health outcomes in the obese individual.

Luckily, Isagenix can help individuals with poor sleep quality, unrelenting stress, and, of course, a clinically-validated Cleansing and Fat Burning System for weight management. First, under the leadership of another Isagenix Scientific Advisory Board member, nutritionist Dr. Michael Colgan, Isagenix has developed Sleep Support and Renewal™, which contains a fastacting melatonin formulation along with other calming ingredients such as valerian root and the amino acid L-theanine.

Next, for combating life’s daily stresses, Isagenix offers Ionix Supreme, a concentrated beverage full of adaptogenic herbs to improve stress management and reduce stress-induced fatigue along with the Adaptogen-rich, naturally sourced caffeinated e+ energy shot. Finally, for healthy, sustained weight loss and improved body composition, the 30-Day Cleansing and Fat Burning system has been shown in two independent studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Skidmore College to significantly reduce body weight, total body fat, and visceral fat.†

With Isagenix targeted solutions and weight management systems, you give your body the best chance at improving your sleep quality and “energizing” those telomeres.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

  1. National Sleep Foundation. How sleep works: How much sleep do we really need? Available at: http://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  2. Prather AA et al. Shorter leukocyte telomere length in midlife women with poor sleep quality. J Aging Res 2011;2011:721390.
  3. Cribbet MR et al. Cellular aging and restorative processes: subjective sleep quality and duration moderate the association between age and telomere length in a sample of middle-aged and older adults. Sleep 37:65-70, 2014.
  4. Prather AA et al. Tired telomeres: Poor global sleep quality, perceived stress, and telomere length in immune cell subsets in obese men and women. Brain Behav Immun 2014 Dec 20. pii: S0889-1591(14)00574-1. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.12.011. [Epub ahead of print].

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How to Avoid Catching Contagious Stress

Boss in despair

New research proves that stress is not only unhealthy, but contagious.

Don’t Catch Stress! We’ve all heard that stress is both unhealthy and unavoidable. But did you know that it’s also contagious?

New research from The Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Clemens Kirschbaum Technical Center in Dresden, Germany has recently addressed the intriguing possibility that stress can spread like an infectious disease.

These researchers conducted a large-scale study investigating stress moving from person to person through observation and its physiological responses (1). They found that both men and women become just as stressed when observing indirect stress through a one-way glass as they do from direct stress.

This empathetic form of stress creates the same cascade of harmful hormonal and physiological responses that were thought to only result from direct stress. Contagious empathetic stress, given the amounts of unavoidable direct stress we already register as experienced, also merits investigation within the research and healthcare communities.

Stress is needed for our survival. In short bursts it is protective, preparing us for “fight” or “flight,” but chronic stress, both direct and observed, can be harmful to the body (2). Increased concentrations of the circulating stress hormone cortisol is linked to a spectrum of metabolically related disorders including obesity and cardiovascular disease (2). Permanently elevated levels of cortisol can potentially disturb the immune system and can even become toxic to the brain (1). And this presents a valid argument for better attention to techniques and lifestyle stress management.

There are multiple avenues to stress management. Some are better known than others, such as relaxation, deep breathing, and routine exercise. Others are relatively new to the Western world, such as the use of stress-modulating herbs called Adaptogens.

Adaptogens affect multiple body systems including our neurological, endocrine, and immune systems, as well as the body’s homeostasis and energy metabolism (3). They offer a unique approach to stress management, especially for individuals that do not find meditation, yoga, or deep breathing their particular “stress-reducing” cup of tea.

Adaptogen expert Alexander G. Panossian, Ph.D., from the Swedish Herbal Institute, reported that an active component of the adaptogenic herb rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) had biological activity that helped regulate the stress response (3). This herb is one of the primary adaptogenic herbs found in Ionix Supreme, along with wolfberry, ashwagandha, and amla berry to support the body in modulating the effects of chronic stress. Ionix Supreme is an adaptogenic tonic, suited for everyday use.

It’s our responsibility to do our part to stop the spread of unwanted worry, anxiety and pressures that come with everyday life. However, with Adaptogens, anyone who is confronted by stress can better manage their response to it. Along with other healthy habits such as exercise and quality sleep, stress can be controlled.

 

References:

  1. Engert V, Plessow F, Miller R, Kirschbaum C et al. Cortisol increase in empathic stress is modulated by social closeness and observation modality. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2014 ; 45 :192-201.
  2. Jantz G L PhD. The physical dangers of stress: Is being stressed out more harmful than you realize? Hope for Relationships. 2014.
  3. Panossian A G PhD, DSci. Adaptogens in Mental and Behavioral Disorders. Psychiatr Clin N Am 36 (2013) 49–64.

 

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Spring Newsletter: Stop the Spread of Stress

Click the image above to read all about what Adaptogens are and how they can help you adjust to life's ups and downs.

Click the image above to read all about what Adaptogens are and how they can help you adjust to life’s ups and downs.

Life’s stress got you down? Learn all about the science behind Adaptogens and how they can help you stop the spread of stress. Below is a short introduction provided by Isagenix Chief Science Officer Suk Cho, Ph.D., also found on Page 2 of the newsletter:

Word from the Chief 

Stress is the single greatest overlooked factor with an impact on health. Are you aware of the stress epidemic? More than a third of U.S. adults experience chronic stress ultimately robs them of their health. In fact, statistics suggests that stress contributes to more than 60 percent of all chronic health problems. These include obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular risk.  A healthy diet, regular exercise, and good stress-management habits is essential. Stress is a health factor that can only be addressed if we choose to “adapt.”  

As you’ll learn in this newsletter, stress can affect your physical and mental health. And, as it turns out, it can be contagious. Similar to catching a cold, we can catch the stress of other people and absorb the stress from the ambient noises, sights and activities that surround us. Our body responds to these stressors with a cascade of cellular and hormonal alterations that could harm the body’s metabolism, put your health at risk, accelerate the aging process, and even lead you to gain visceral belly fat.

But Isagenix does have a solution to offer: Adaptogens that help you adjust and adapt better to life’s ups and downs. With the use of our Adaptogens, like Ionix Supreme, e+ and t + chai, you can mitigate the effects of chronic stress, contagious stress, and the stress related to aging and performance. Protecting your health with these natural herbal blends helps you handle life and all of life’s moments with a healthy attitude.

Live well and adventurously,

Suk Cho, Ph.D.
Isagenix Chief Science Officer

 

 

 

 

 

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