Good news for chocolate lovers: A new scientific study suggests that chocolate may have a positive influence on cognitive performance. This is the first long-term study to find associations between chocolate consumption and mental functions.
The results of the study were published in the journal Appetite.
The research team, led by Georgina E. Crichton, used data that had been collected during the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), a research project designed to measure aging, cognition and illness over the course of several decades. Participants who were included in this database were measured on dietary intake, e.g., how frequently they consumed certain foods, as well as their risk factors for cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Participants were also instructed to perform a wide range of tasks designed to measure certain cognitive abilities, including visual-spatial memory and organization, scanning and tracking, verbal episodic memory and working memory.
The results? Researchers found that chocolate consumption was positively associated with cognitive performance “irrespective of other dietary habits.” These results continued to be significant even when the researchers adjusted for each participant’s cardiovascular risk factors, including total and LDL cholesterol, glucose levels and hypertension.
This is far from the first study to suggest that chocolate may provide long-term health benefits. Recent research from Harvard has found that middle-aged and older adults who eat up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day have lower rates of heart disease than people who avoid chocolate.
This study is, however, the first to show that eating chocolate may also help your brain.
“It is evident that nutrients in foods exert differential effects on the brain. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, isolating these nutrients and foods enables the formation of dietary interventions to optimize neuropsychological health,” the researchers wrote.
What does this mean?
Clinicians aren’t going to start prescribing chocolate to anyone soon, although researchers will continue to examine chocolate’s effects on brain function.
Right now, they believe that the main ingredient is flavanol, a specific plant metabolite that is found in chocolate, tea, red wine, and fruits such as grapes and apples. Unfortunately, the current study didn’t discriminate between white, milk and dark chocolate, all of which have different levels of flavanol (with dark chocolate having the greatest levels). The study also didn’t examine how much chocolate each person was consuming, so it’s hard to determine the ideal amount of chocolate to have each day.
In the meantime, try not to feel too guilty when you bite into your next chocolate bar. You might just be helping you brain.
At the Sovereign Health Group’s mental health treatment program, we understand that no two patients have identical needs. For this reason, all patients receive individualized, customized treatment plans best suited to their unique challenges. We also provide our patients with insightful training into how diet, and physical, emotional and mental activities influence both short- and long-term brain wellness. For more information, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her Master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.