After gathering plenty of information about participants’ dietary habits through questionnaires, one major pattern remained clear: chocolate was very good for people’s cognitive health.
While previous studies had shown that chocolate was correlated with positive health effects, its exact relation to brain function and behavior had not been explicitly observed.
So how often should you eat chocolate to benefit from it?
Elias explained, “We found that people who eat chocolate at least once a week tend to perform better cognitively. It’s significant– it touches a number of cognitive domains.”
The new study was compiled by nutrition researcher Georgina Crichton from the University of South Australia and epidemiologist Ala’a Alkerwi from the Luxembourg Institute of Health. In their research, they found that regular chocolate consumption was associated with improved “visual-spatial memory and [organization], working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination,” all functions that help us better perform everyday tasks.
Though the researchers can’t conclusively state why chocolate is proving to have these cognitive benefits, they believe it comes down to a specific ingredient.
Natural nutrients in cocoa called cocoa flavanols seem to be the cause of the positive effect in people’s brains, “reduc[ing] some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction” and “positively influenc[ing] psychological processes.” This could be because the nutrients increase blood flow to the brain.
In the future, Elias and his team hope to further explore the specifics, such as if light or dark chocolate is more beneficial for the human brain.
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