There have been many studies conducted to prove the benefits of chocolate on a range of health issues, yet there is a lack of research on the impact of chocolate on cognitive function and brain health. However as we approach Easter, there is some great news for chocolate lovers; a new study* published last month shows that eating chocolate at least once per week improves cognitive brain function and performance.
Data was collected through questionnaires from 968 people between the ages of 23-98, asking how often they ate chocolate over a 30 year period. The group was then assessed on a range of tasks testing cognitive function, such as – visual-spacial memory (related to space and objects), scanning and tracking (focus on objects), verbal episodic memory (in relation to words and language) and working memory (ability to process and remember new information). After the study, the journal reported “regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function” as well as protecting against cognitive decline through ageing.
What are flavanols?
Cocoa flavanols are phytonutrients (in other words, plant-based nutrients) that are naturally found in cocoa. It has a whole host of benefits, including being high in antioxidants. Interestingly a study** shows that the “consumption of plain, dark chocolate results in an increase in both the total antioxidant capacity and the content of blood plasma.”
Which chocolate should you be eating?
Whilst including cocoa in your diet has been proven to be beneficial, it’s also important to note that we usually consume chocolate far from its natural state. A lot of sugar and dairy has been added and should be eaten in moderation.
Whilst milk chocolate is popular choice, research** has shown that dairy may interfere with the absorption of the antioxidants in chocolate and in turn negate the health benefits that can be absorbed through eating dark chocolate.
Instead of reaching for the store bought milk chocolate eggs this Easter, buy dark chocolate with limited added ingredients. Or an even yummier option, try our Superfood Chocolates from Amchara Gozo.
Other Brain related topics:
Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, February 2016: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316300459, DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.02.010
**Reference: Plasma antioxidants from chocolate, August 2003: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v424/n6952/abs/4241013a.html, DOI: doi:10.1038/4241013a