Indulging in chocolate may be just what the doctor ordered.
A recent study suggests consuming the dessert at least once a week may boost your cognitive function.
The study, published in the journal Appetite, monitored the chocolate intake of 968 participants, aged 23-98 years old, over the course of 30 years.
The participants’ cognitive function was tested by observing how they fared through a series of tasks that examined the following:
- Visual-spatial memory and organization: One’s capacity to understand and remember spatial relations among objects.
- Working memory: How we remember old information and process new content.
- Verbal memory: Our ability to recall words and other verbal items.
- Scanning and tracking: How we focus on an object and discern it from others.
Once researchers removed other possible factors that may skew results (including age, sex, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, total calorie intake, education, blood glucose levels and alcohol intake), they discovered that those individuals who consumed chocolate at least once a week performed better on cognitive tasks compared to their non-chocolate eating counterparts.
“This is an intriguing study which definitely reinforces our suspicions about the potential benefits of chocolate,” says Dr. Armand Krikorian, internal medicine residency program director at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “But an association does not necessarily mean causation, and we need more evidence to prove that chocolate actually causes improved cognition.”
The possible positive effects of chocolate are most likely due to cocoa, which contains a small amount of caffeine and thus provides a boost in alertness, and flavanols, naturally occurring compounds that are proven to support healthy blood circulation to the brain.
Although dark chocolate is well known for its rich flavanol content, the benefits reaped from moderate chocolate consumption as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle may not be limited to dark chocolate; researchers noted that the study also included participants who consumed milk and white chocolate.
“It is important to remember that moderation in chocolate consumption is key, however, as excess may lead to negative effects such as weight gain and diabetes,” Dr. Krikorian says.