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These 2 Drinks Can Slow Your Brain's Aging, New Study Says

Cozying up with a mug of either of these beverages can have positive mental effects.

If you love to cozy up with a steaming cup of coffee or hot cocoa during the colder months, then you're in luck. According to a study published by Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, both of these beverages have been associated with decreased cognitive decline—keeping your brain smarter and sharper for even longer.

The published article takes a close look at case-controlled studies from two French regions—Bordeaux and Dijon—evaluating food-related metabolic events from 842 participants that are free of dementia. Throughout a 12-year period, dietary components for participants were closely evaluated, along with regular neuropsychological tests to determine any cognitive decline over time. Researchers took a close look at different dietary components for the participants, as well as their gut microbiota and their metabolism.

Results revealed that the consumption of polyphenol-rich foods, as well as cocoa, coffee, mushrooms, and red wine, were all associated with protection against cognitive decline. While more research is needed to understand how caffeine (in coffee) affects cognitive decline, the two study samples did show consistent patterns with consumption of these foods and how it affects one's metabolism—which is an important factor for cognitive decline.

Previous studies have shown an association between cognitive decline and poor gut microbiota, as well as metabolic syndrome. A recent review in Nutrients points out a link between gut microbiota and cognitive performance, and how a healthy gut does play a role in the functioning of your brain.

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While sipping on a mug of coffee or hot cocoa can provide mental health benefits, it's important to also note the negative effects particularly dietary components can have on cognitive decline. This recent study also points out how unhealthy dietary components, like artificial sweeteners and alcohol, can create the opposite effect on your brain—speeding up cognitive decline. While red wine does include antioxidants that can help with the body's health (and is even commonly consumed by the world's healthiest people), too much consumption of alcohol could have negative effects on the brain—meaning more research would need to be done in terms of red wine's effects on cognitive function.

Protection against cognitive decline isn't the only benefit of drinking coffee or cocoa on the regular. Studies show that coffee not only positively affects brain health and lowers your risk of Alzheimer's, but it also benefits your heart, protects your liver, reduces the risk of kidney stone formation, and overall helps you live longer. Hot cocoa has been continually linked to better brain health, and also protects you from heart attacks, and can even help with weight loss.

So pour yourself a steaming mug and cozy up this winter—your brain will thank you for it.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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