Go easy on the wine, caffeine, chocolate. Study challenges popular thinking about their benefits.

Remember all those cheery reports on how red wine, dark chocolate, or caffeine-rich drinks might help your brain stay sharp? Not so fast. A new study from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) has found no evidence of such links. GCBH is an independent collaborative sponsored by AARP and Age UK, a British charity. Its study released in January, “Brain Food: GCBH Recommendations on Nourishing Your Brain Health,” looks at the way diet and food choices can affect your brain health.

The news may be sobering to those downing cabernet after reading about the beneficial effects of wine. “If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation and only with meals,” the report says, “because it is unclear if there is any beneficial level of consumption for brain health.”

The GCBH experts also found scant support for the idea that drinking coffee was a long term positive for your brain. “Some research has been published about the protective benefits of the antioxidants in tea and coffee,” the report notes. “Short-term effects of caffeine consumption have been shown to increase alertness…but there is no consensus on whether the impact of tea and coffee is clearly beneficial or harmful for brain health.”

As for dark chocolate, while there is some researcher showing high consumption of cocoa flavanols can cut memory loss., “the amount of chocolate you would need to eat to positively impact the brain could be canceled out by the number of calories and sugar you consume.”

S what should you eat? Pretty much what you’d expect. The council confirmed that a plant-based diet rich in green leafy vegetables and berries contributes to better brain health, while a diet high in red meat, saturated fats, sugar and salt can harm your brain health.  And there is mounting evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish protect against neurodegenerative disorders. Some fish have high mercury content, but the benefits outweigh the risk. The experts say: Eat the fish.

Source: AARP Bulletin January/February 2018