Ok everyone, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. This article is about how regular chocolate consumption may boost your brain power. I’ll promise to try to not get carried away … well maybe just a little bit (yay!)
I’ve posted before about how hot chocolate may boost your memory . That post was based on a study which found that chocolate may improve your memory shortly after drinking it. But what does long term consumption of chocolate do for your brain? Thankfully, a new study that tracked the chocolate eating habits of nearly one thousand people ranging in age from 23 to 98, and it’s good news!
Chocolate is one of the most widely eaten “treat” foods in the world, with over 7 million tonnes of the stuff consumed every year. Traditionally it has been used medicinally to treat many conditions. More recently, science has found that it can be healthy for your heart and cholesterol levels. Unfortunately we have a tendency to eat too much sugar which has shunted chocolate into the unhealthy food category. Many of the health promoting benefits have come from studies on dark chocolate which has a higher cocoa content and a lower amount of sugar.
Your Brain On Chocolate
So what does it do for your brain? A study published in the journal Appetite suggests that it can help with your cognitive performance. Or in other word cocoa makes and keeps you smart. They recruited 1049 individuals whose eating was tracked over eighteen years. People who ate chocolate at least once a week fared better in cognitive tests that those who ate it less often or rarely. People who ate it more often fared even better.
After taking into account cardiovascular, lifestyle and other dietary factors, the authors conclude that their findings suggests that ” regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.”
So drinking or eating cocoa in some form may help your brain in the fight against age-related decline. That’s pretty sweet!
One flaw identified by the study is that they didn’t ask the participants to identify which type of chocolate they consumed. However, they note that milk chocolate accounts for 57% of sales in the US, with dark chocolate accounting for 35%. White chocolate makes up the rest at 8%. Dark chocolate is better for us, both because of the lower sugar content but also due to its higher cocoa content (between 305 – 70%). Still, the milk chocolate variety is probably good for us too, with between 7-15% of cocoa.
So what is the magic ingredient that’s helping our brains? It’s Brain Sponge Blog’s favourite food constituent, flavanols. Regular readers may remember that flavanols have been shown to encourage brain growth in petri dishes. That study recommended higher dietary intake of certain herbs and teas. Somehow, I think a higher intake of chocolate might capture people’s imagination a bit more!
What’s The Catch?
The authors believe that they have accounted for other lifestyle and dietary factors. However, the participants self-reported what they ate so there is always a chance that what they said they ate may not always tally with what they actually ate. Another plus is that the study was not funded by anyone remotely connected to cocoa.
So the catch is that you shouldn’t use the study to excuse a weekly monster binge on chocolate! On the other hand, a small indulgence a couple of times a week will probably be good for your heart and your brain. You may now grin like a Cheshire cat, I know I am!
Please, please, please consult with a doctor before making any dietary changes.
What’s your favourite way to ingest the sweet stuff? Let me know below!