Habitual chocolate consumption is positively linked with cognitive performance, according to new research published in the journal Appetite
The study involved researchers looking at data collected from Syracuse, New York, where participants were measured for dietary intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
This involved answering questions on how often they ate foods such as pasta, fruit, vegetables and chocolate.
Participants were also given a series of tests designed to measure cognitive domains such as visual-spatial memory and organisation, scanning and tracking, verbal episodic memory, and working memory.
The results found that chocolate consumption was positively associated with cognitive performance "irrespective of other dietary habits".
The researchers said: "More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination.”
“The present findings support recent clinical trials suggesting that regular intake of cocoa flavanols (a subgroup of flavonoids) may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.”
The ability of flavonoid-rich foods to improve cognitive function has been demonstrated in a number of epidemiological studies and clinical trials. Chocolate and cocoa products, in particular, are a rich source of flavonoids, the researchers added.
One limitation of the research was that it did not separate the chocolate into categories such as white, dark, milk, etc.
However, the study does acknowledge that in 2012, the distribution share of chocolate in the United States by favourite chocolate type was 57% milk chocolate, 35% dark chocolate, and 8% white chocolate.
“We can therefore make the assumption that the majority of chocolate consumed in this sample was dark or milk, both containing cocoa flavanols to varying degrees,” the research said.
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