We’re very rarely encouraged to eat chocolate to improve our health, as the diet industry often slams it for its high calorie and sugar count. Usually, we reserve a bar of the good stuff for cheat days and special occasions, (like a Tuesday night) because unfortunately, it’s not great for our waistline.
New research from the University of L’Aquila might be rooting for our inner chocoholic though. Italian researchers reviewed nearly 50 experiments and concluded that regular consumption of chocolate can improve our brain. The review, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, studied existing literature that observed the effects of short and long term consumption of cocoa flavanols (plant-based nutrients) on different parts on the brain and the overall results seemed positive.
Participants of the reviewed studies revealed signs of enhanced working memory performance and visual information processing. Even better news for women, eating cocoa after a night of sleep deprivation can actually counteract the cognitive impairment you suffer as a result of a bad night’s sleep.
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However, the effects strongly depended on the length and intensity of the test used to measure acute cocoa consumption. Young and healthy people, for example, were subjected to high demanding cognitive tests to determine the immediate effects, which were found to be subtle.
Long term effects of cocoa flavanols were, in general, tested on elderly people. They discovered that daily intake of cocoa improved attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency. These findings were most distinct in older adults whose memory was starting to decline or those who suffered from other minor cognitive impairments. These are still positive results that suggest the potential effects cocoa could have on our brains when we begin ageing.
The takeaway? “Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” said review authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara.
Still be cautious and opt for dark chocolate over its milk chocolate brother to save yourself from increased calories and sugar content but this is definitely research we can get behind.
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