As the modern population continues to live to older and older ages, an unwelcome effect arises…dementia. The brain, like most of the organs of the body, deteriorates as we age.
When deterioration causes significant functional impairment, we call it dementia. Deterioration of memory and the ability to think and reason are the primary manifestations of dementia.
The most famous form of dementia is “Alzheimer’s Disease”. Alzheimer’s Disease is known to occur when sizeable areas of the brain first deteriorate, and then completely die. The dead areas of brain are actually absent, leaving gaping holes in the brain itself. The ultimate cause of Alzheimers is not yet known, but may be associated with the toxic accumulation of the metal aluminum in the brain, and the deposition of myeloid proteins in the affected areas of brain neural tissue. Alzheimers, also sometimes called “pre-senile dementia”, is a profound dementia that can occur at ages younger than that normally associated with “senile dementia”, the dementia of old age.
Senile dementia, the most common type of dementia, occurs due to the gradual and progressive deterioration of brain cells and the blood supply to the brain cells. Whatever the name or exact type of dementia, it is often devastating to the individual and their family. As memory and cognition diminish, we may actually lose our basic personality. The personality is to a great extent present in the frontal lobe of the brain. Destruction of this area, or its’ gradual deterioration from age, is proven to result in noticeable changes in our personality. Very often, older people become “cranky” and lose the thrill they once gained from experiences. Frontal lobe deterioration may be the primary cause of these personality and perception changes. As the brain deteriorates, we may also lose our ability to perceive pleasure…and the sensation of bliss.
The Brain and Bliss
The bliss factor is an essential part of indulging in chocolate. Eating chocolate makes many people just simply “feel good”. This blissful experience seems to be mediated by special natural chemical found in the cocoa bean. Chocolate is reported to be rich in natural chemicals that induce a sense of euphoria (ref 8) These “feel good” substances include analogues of anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine), that binds to and activates the same brain receptors as does marijuana. Anandamide acts like a neurotransmitter (messenger substance) and is linked to many brain functions including mood, memory, cognition, and the perception of pain.<…>
PEA is another natural brain chemical responsible for maintenance of our mood. This powerful and essential brain chemical is produced in the brain itself. It is a neuro-modulator, meaning that it helps to control and potentiate neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the brains’ way of activating itself to function normally. Lack of PEA is associated with the development of depression. Replacing deficient PEA in depression patients sometimes reverses their depression.
Chocolate is rich in PEA. This may be one of the primary reasons that some people “Crave” chocolate because it makes them feel better. As a matter of fact, PEA is similar to another chemical that induces an even more profound sense of well-being. The man-made chemical MDMA, also known as its’ street drug name ”ecstasy’ is very similar to PEA. Just more powerful. Chocolate may for many be the true “natural ecstasy food”!
Chocolate fights dementia in other profound ways. The primary mechanism by which chocolate fights dementia is via chocolate’s natural stimulatory chemicals. The methylxanthines are found in abundance in the cocoa bean. Methylxanthines are a group of natural chemical substances that are stimulating to the brain. Stimulation seems to reduce the symptoms, and perhaps the actual progression, of dementia. The small amount of caffeine found in chocolate is one of these stimulants. Perhaps the most unique and important methylxanthine stimulant in the cocoa bean is theobromine. This neuro-stimulant is gentler and longer acting than caffeine. It increases brain activity, the sate of arousal, and energizes cognition. Theobromine may act together in unison with anandamide to induce a sense of blissful well-being.
Chocolate has been associated with increasing the brain levels of another neurotransmitter, serotonin. Chocolate seems to increase the production of serotonin by the brain. As serotonin is increased, mood and function improve. Low levels of serotonin in the brain are associated with addictive disorders, depression, mood-swings, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. As we age, a mild form of depression often lingers. This depression may be a part of the entire process known as dementia. Mild brain stimulants may lessen this part of the dementia syndrome.