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Is Chocolate Good for the Brain and Can Lack Sleep Cause Racism?

Chocolate may help stimulate brain oxygenation. And how police make a decision on whether to shoot or not.

Chocolate may help stimulate brain oxygenation and so improve cognitive abilities. Lack of sleep may be a factor in racial bias and how police make a decision on whether to shoot or not.

This is all according to recent brain and neuroscience research.

Now we all know that most studies that get reported in the news are cited simply because of their sensationalistic content. Rarely do the news feeds and news channel reports get into the finer details of the studies, nor do they take the time to look into their sources, who conducted them and if the studies were funded by organizations with an agenda or bias.

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But these studies were reported in serious scientific journals.

First, let’s talk about chocolate.

In a study published in Science Daily, researchers found that cocoa flavonoids can protect the brain from cognitive decline. Flavonoids, a group of small molecules present in fruits and vegetables, can protect against vascular disease and cardiovascular-related mortality.

Those in cocoa can cause short-term (2–8 weeks) “clinically relevant improvements in blood pressure and endothelial function. Mechanistically, the beneficial effects of cocoa flavanols on endothelial function have been linked to increases in bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO)6, which is known to be affected in the earliest stages of vascular disease11.”

Further research showed that cocoa did help promote more oxygen reaching the brain and therefore help to prevent cognitive decline associated with aging.

But don’t start gobbling up a lot of chocolate just yet. First of all, the study was about pure cocoa. Chocolates are loaded up with sugar and all sorts of artificial ingredients. And the research here is not final.

But the good news is that someday cocoa could be used to treat cognitive problems.

So what about sleep and racism?

We all know how cranky we get if we did not get a good night sleep. Sleep loss is connected to irritability. But can it really be associated with the seemingly race based actions of police?

This is obviously significant in America today where after number of African Americans have recently been shot to death or strangled by police.

In a study published in Nature.com, a group of people who were subjected to lack of sleep “showed significant racial biases, including more and quicker shooting of Black targets compared to White targets.”

The researchers also found that mild sleep loss changed participants’ decision criterion, increasing the tendency to shoot. The increased tendency to shoot was also observed in participants who reported believing that they had adapted to the sleep loss.

The scientists wish to conduct further research on police officers specifically to see what can be learned about their behavioral changes caused by sleep deprivation.

But this certainly does not excuse racial biases which already exist. The police who may have been more likely to use excessive or even deadly force on a Black suspect then on a White one were not necessarily fatigued at the time of their actions. And even if they were, the lack of sleep would only have affected their judgment if they already held certain beliefs or opinions.

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