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Chocolate for MEMORY LOSS!?

I might be doing something ... right by my daily doses of unsweetened cocoa!  

Cocoa Bean

I have serious memory issues if you did not notice, on account of the epilepsy, and I assume that someday I'm going to be in a home for the memory impaired.  So every time I see a study like this -- I go OOOOH!  LOOOK!  THIS!  I don't take them very seriously, but I read them ALL.  Firstly, it was sponsored in part by a chocolate candy-maker.  And, yeah.  

But check it.

image from
The brain area outlined in yellow is the hippocampus; the dentate gyrus is shown in green and the entorhinal cortex in purple. Previous work, including by the laboratory of senior author Scott A. Small, M.D., had shown that changes in a specific part of the brain's hippocampus -- the dentate gyrus -- are associated with normal age-related memory decline in humans and other mammals. The dentate gyrus is distinct from the entorhinal cortex, the hippocampal region affected in early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Credit: Lab of Scott A. Small, M.D.

Via New York Times -

In a small study in the journal Nature Neuroscience, healthy people, ages 50 to 69, who drank a mixture high in antioxidants called cocoa flavanols for three months performed better on a memory test than people who drank a low-flavanol mixture.

On average, the improvement of high-flavanol drinkers meant they performed like people two to three decades younger on the study’s memory task, said Dr. Scott A. Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center and the study’s senior author. They performed about 25 percent better than the low-flavanol group.

“An exciting result,” said Craig Stark, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the research. “It’s an initial study, and I sort of view this as the opening salvo.”

He added, “And look, it’s chocolate. Who’s going to complain about chocolate?”

The findings support recent research linking flavanols, especiallyepicatechin, to improved blood circulation, heart health and memory in mice, snails and humans. But experts said the new study, although involving only 37 participants and partly funded by Mars Inc., the chocolate company, goes further and was a well-controlled, randomized trial led by experienced researchers.

Besides improvements on the memory test — a pattern recognition test involving the kind of skill used in remembering where you parked the car or recalling the face of someone you just met — researchers found increased function in an area of the brain’s hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, which has been linked to this type of memory.

“Boy, this is really interesting to see it in three months,” said Dr. Steven DeKosky, a neurologist and visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “They got this really remarkable increase in a place in the brain that we know is related to age-related memory change.”

There was no increased activity in another hippocampal region, theentorhinal cortex, which is impaired early in Alzheimer’s disease. That reinforces the idea that age-related memory decline is different and suggests that flavanols might not help Alzheimer’s, even though they might delay normal memory loss.

But unless you are stocking up for Halloween, do not rush to buy Milky Way or Snickers bars. To consume the high-flavanol group’s daily dose of epicatechin, 138 milligrams, would take eating at least 300 grams of dark chocolate a day — about seven average-sized bars. Or possibly about 100 grams of baking chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder, but concentrations vary widely depending on the processing. Milk chocolate has most epicatechin processed out of it.

“You would have to eat a large amount of chocolate,” along with its fat and calories, said Hagen Schroeter, director of fundamental health and nutrition research for Mars, which funds many flavanol studies and approached Dr. Small for this one. (“I nearly threw them out,” said Dr. Small, who added that he later concluded that the company employed serious scientists who would not bias the research.) Mars financed about half the study; other funders were the National Institutes of Health and two research foundations.

“Candy bars don’t even have a lot of chocolate in them,” Dr. Schroeter said. And “most chocolate uses a process called dutching and alkalization. That’s like poison for flavanol.”

Mars already sells a supplement, CocoaVia, which it says promotes healthy circulation, including for the heart and brain. It contains 20 to 25 milligrams of epicatechin per packet of powder or capsule serving, Dr. Schroeter said; 30 packets cost $34.95. Epicatechin is also in foods like tea and apples, although may be less absorbable.

The Columbia study had important limitations. For example, the only daily dietary requirements were either 900 milligrams of flavanols with 138 milligrams of epicatechin or 10 milligrams of flavanols with less than two milligrams of epicatechin, so participants could have eaten other things that played a role.

And while researchers also had half of the healthy but sedentary participants in each group exercise four days a week, surprisingly, the exercise had no effects on memory or brain effects.

Dr. Small, whose research previously found that exercise helped hippocampal function in younger people, suggested maybe more vigorous exercise is needed to affect older brains.

“It’s a very clever, interesting study, but there are some caveats,” said Dr. Kenneth S. Kosik, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “People are going to say, ‘It looks like I can have a lot of candy bars and not exercise.’ So it needs replication on a much larger scale.”

More extensive research is planned. As for why flavanols would help memory, one theory is that they improve brain blood flow; another, favored by Dr. Small, is that they cause dendrites, message-receiving branches of neurons, to grow.

“Everybody’s cautious about antioxidants, but this is a horse of a different color, a really elegant study,” Dr. DeKosky said.

The study -



Bad junior high memories, anyone?

There was a boy I used to know - who went to elementary school and Sunday School with me.  His name was Dan Smith.  (No, really, that's not changing it, that's his name.)  This evening, a conversation came up with my mother on the phone regarding random poop that happened to me when I was a kid, stemming from me telling her that my daughter is keeping her same teacher next year, and how that would be "good for her."  I was telling her about other things that occurred to me - when Dan Smith came into conversation.  She says, "That nice kid from church?"  Yeah.  That one. 

I remember back in the eighth grade, when we were just a few seats away from each other in homeroom, you know, alphabetically.  He tormented me.  I was never that obese, but I was always fat.  Chubby.  Never "the BIGGEST" girl in my grade, but definitely in the top 10%. 

Dan, would poke fun at me.  Have you ever watched Airplane?

Ted Striker: The poops going to hit the fan.
[In the office feces fly into a fan and fall down]

Leon: The fog is getting thicker.
Johnny: [hops onscreen] And Leon's getting LAAAAAAAAARGER!
[hops offscreen]

Well, I never did watch the movie.  After hearing LEON'S GETTING LARGER every day for a long time, do you think I wanted to?  Believe me - I tried to ignore it, tried to fight it, anything.  There's nothing you can do.

My mother says - "I never heard any of this?"  Well, duh.  I thought it was normal.  People get crap.  I got a lot of it, for years.  My husband, got lots of it, too, and he never told anyone.  Aren't people supposed to treat you like poop?

If I saw Dan Smith today?  I'd hope he was morbidly obese.  No, that's not fair.  I don't know.  He was one of the "nicer" jerks.  He could have been a lot nastier.

Dream Analysis.

"To dream that you participate in a fight, indicates inner turmoil. Some aspect of yourself is in conflict with another aspect of yourself. Perhaps an unresolved or unacknowledged part is fighting for its right to be heard.  It may also parallel a fight or struggle that you are going through in your waking life."

Before anyone further analyzes it, I know exactly what it means, as do many of you.  All the same, it's scary to have nightmares when you don't typically recall any dreams.  (Is it any wonder I'm avoiding bed right now?!)   And, am I going to be able to go back to this place without hyperventilating just a little? 


Helping your picky eaters.

From Food Network

1. Ask your child to try just one bite
The threat of having to eat an entire portion of any food is daunting. Promise your child that all you require is a single taste. If, after trying a new food, she still insists that it’s not going to be on her menu, you should accept that statement with a nod.

2. Reintroduce foods on a periodic basis
Many kids have to try a food several times before developing a taste for it.

3. Serve as a role model
Let your children see you enjoy a wide variety of foods. Even if you don’t push them to try it, they will see that sauteed broccoli or sweet potato fries can be delicious. Scheduling family meals helps kids watch the adults in their family enjoying lots of different types of foods.

4. Try foods in different forms
Your daughter turns her nose up at potassium-rich bananas? Try a chilled fruit soup or a smoothie milkshake with bananas and yogurt. Often, foods that aren’t so appealing in their natural state can take on a whole new appeal when "repackaged" to suit kids’ tastess.

5. Don’t allow kids to eat snacks right before meals
If you want your picky eater to eat the dinner you’ve prepared, don’t give in to requests for graham crackers and milk late in the afternoon. If kids are hungry, there’s a far better chance that they will eat the baked chicken or hamburgers you
place in front of them.

6. Use dinner as a special family-focus time
Think of dinner as an opportunity for quality time rather than a chance to focus on the food your selective son eats. This way, there is less pressure on him to please you and more on sharing the details of his day.

7. Give your child a role in mealtime preparations
Allow your daughter to help prepare dinner and your son to set the table – and let her help to choose the menu. If children have buy-in for the meal, there’s a greater chance that they will eat it.

8. Become familiar with the amount of food your child really needs
Often, we think our children require more than they truly do – and when they say that they’re finished, they really are. Kids don’t need to eat as much as adults – often, we should take our cues from them and stop eating when we feel full. Being aware of nutritional guidelines can help curb the need to push second helpings.

Not the birthday cake, but close.

My old friend wrote back, she found the photos.  Oh. My. God.  I can't wait to see them.  I'll certainly crop out the innocent and post my own birthday-caked self.


I found the pictures of us looking like birthday cakes. I think my scanner is broken but let me mess with it and try and send it to you. You won't feel as bad once you see my dress. It is hideous! At least yours is pink and sparkly. Mine is BRIGHT BLUE and there's a lot of lace and crap. I either look like a birthday cake or one of those crochet dolls that old women put over the spare roll of toilet paper. You instantly get a picture of me when you hear that, right?"

As for my dress, of course it had to be pink and sparkly.  I'm thinking I probably wouldn't have even worn one if it weren't pink and sparkly.

(OMG) Birthday Cake Dress - '90s

For my senior prom, we couldn't find a dress to fit me - so I went to a dressmaker and she made me a dress.  Of course, she messed it up (not realizing that I was a fat girl with no boobs, and my mother had to redo most of it.)  What I requested was a "Juliet" style dress, with a tight bodice and empire waist, because that is all a fat girl can really get away with.  The dressmaker didn't get it - and made it big and boxy.  Here I am (with Deflating Dad of course!) heading to our senior prom.  This was shortly after he had lost more than 100 lbs. on his own with diet and exercise, and started to regain some, he's about 190 lbs here, and I'm over 200 somewhere.  Quit laughing.

Senior Prom '96 (Scan)

A abbreviated history of Bob.

Scan00032Bob and I have joked before that he was the "biggest premature baby you've ever seen."  He was born extremely early, and was very small, under two pounds. He grew normally during early childhood, but started gaining excess weight during the later years of elementary school.

Bob's 4th grade class pic

Bob hit his highest pre-adult weight at age 17, where he was nearing 300 lbs.  (I will scan photos to add here, they're not online.)

In junior year of high school, Bob dieted and exercised and got down to 175 lbs. on his own.


Nice day for a white wedding, err, prom?

While he looked and felt great, he soon started regaining once he started eating more normally, and got closer to 200 lbs during his senior year of high school.  When he started college, the pounds really started coming back, as eating on the run became normal. 

After coming home to work to support his new family, the inevitable combination of stress and financial hardship caused him to eat poorly, and he regained all of his lost weight, and then some.  When his first daughter was born, he was over 300 lbs.

Over the next few years, Bob gained up to his highest recorded weight of 360 lbs.  In that same time, he had many failed dieting attempts, with losses up to 30-50 lbs, with an automatic regain after returning to old habits.  He followed Weight Watchers, Slim-Fast, and the Atkins Diet.  Nothing seemed to do the trick, and the weight issue became a health risk, with high blood pressure, and the beginnings of arthritis in his early twenties.  After living as a morbidly obese person for quite a few years, he decided to do something more drastic, and made an appointment for a consultation for weight-loss surgery at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.  Nearly a year after this appointment, he had a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass procedure on May 10th, 2004 and subsequently lost from 360 (pre-operatively, 347 lbs. on day of surgery) to 165 lbs, where he's maintaining nearly two years out of surgery. Lots_of_pix_to_organize_1591

Bob near goal- July 2005

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Remember that time we dressed up like birthday cakes?

Thanks to the world of Myspace - I've gotten in touch with a few of my old friends and aquaintances from forever ago.  A couple of days ago, I blindly mailed someone I found through searching by name - and although she didn't have a photo, I knew it was her.  Anyhow - she and I were in a church group together, and I think we were the two heaviest girls in it.  We had this fashion show one time, I believe it was for prom-gowns and evening wear.

She wrote:

"Do you remember the fashion show we had to do for the church. Do you remember those hideous dresses you and I had to wear? Mine was a lot worse then yours. I still have pictures of that somewhere. I looked like a birthday cake! How traumatizing. Everyone had 3 or 4 dresses to wear and there was only one that I fit in!"

I had forgotten about that.  It really was traumatizing.  We wore giant pastel pink dresses that would be only suitable for bridesmaids in some really campy movie.  I must have been about 15 years old, and probably weighing in the low-mid 200/230 pound range.  Imagine my despair had I been near my highest weight of 320 lbs!  I don't have any photo evidence, I believe my mother might have one or two.  It was definitely video-taped as well, so it might be in someone's archives out there, hidden.  Some of the girls looked like real-life brides with the dresses they wore, but us, in our dresses looking like house insulation and birthday cakes? Thanks for the memory.  I guess I can giggle about it now - and keep it as motivation.