Does chocolate make the brain more efficient?

While we may be familiar with chocolate and especially dark chocolate’s positive effect on stress; its effects on cognitive performance were little known… until now. Sweet tooths will have something to be happy about because this recent study published in the medical journal Appetite showed that the regular consumption of chocolate helps fight cognitive decline. So how is it good for our brain?

The study carried out by Georgina E. Crichton at the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre (University of South Australia), in collaboration with the psychology department, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Maine (USA), and the Luxembourg Institute of Health aimed to determine the effect of chocolate on cognitive decline. To do so, crossover studies were conducted on 968 participants (ages 23 to 98), all of whom were part of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) cohort. Over 5 years, volunteers (for whom chocolate consumption was also monitored) underwent neuropsychological tests to assess their visuo-spatial memory and organization, verbal and working memory, and abstract reasoning.

The results of the research show that the people who regularly eat chocolate (once or multiple times a week) perform significantly better on the tests, particularly for memory and abstract reasoning. Following analysis, with the exception of working memory, this link is independent of other parameters like cardiovascular health, lifestyle, and eating habits.

Even if longitudinal studies are needed to further explore the relationship between chocolate and cognition, Georgina E. Crichton, the study’s lead author, says the advantages of chocolate translate to everyday tasks, “such as remembering a phone number, or your shopping list, or being able to do two things at once.” The flavonols (a subfamily of the flavonoid) contained in cocoa appear to play a key role, undoubtedly thanks to their antioxidant effect, which improves blood supply to the brain.

While we’re waiting to learn more, it’s up to you to find a balance between the cognitive benefits and the caloric pitfalls!
Source: Georgina E. Crichton et al., “Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study”, in Appetite, volume 100, 01 May 2016.

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