Chocolate intake has been linked to superior cognitive health, in a recent study featured in the journal Appetite on February 9.
Research was conducted by experts from the University of Maine, the University of South Australia, and the Luxembourg Institute of Health.
The analysis focused on medical data collected during the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), and involved a group of 968 New York residents, aged between 23 and 98.
Each of the study participants, whose cardiovascular health had been closely tracked, had been required to answer questions regarding their dietary habits, such as the amount of fruits, veggies, wholegrain cereal items, fish, low-fat dairy products and nuts that they consumed on a daily basis.
Aside from surveying recommended food intake, researchers had also analyzed each individual’s consumption of more unhealthy products, such as processed meats, full-fat dairy, alcohol, fatty meals (french fries, pizza etc.), refined grains, and added sugars (soda, sweetened beverages, pies, cakes, chocolate etc.).
Subjects had also been required to take various tests, assessing several aspects related to their cognitive function: visual-spatial memory, working memory, conceptual reasoning, problem solving, attention skills etc.
For this latest investigation making use of MSLS data, experts led by Dr. Georgina Crichton, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of South Australia, decided to seek a potential correlation between chocolate intake and brain power.
It was determined that people who favor chocolate tend to score higher at cognitive tests, regardless of what other food items they may consume on a daily basis.
Chocolate lovers were proven to fare better at the Folstein test (also known as the mini-mental state examination), which assesses cognitive impairment as part of routine dementia screening.
In addition, they were also shown to have superior lateral thinking and visual spatial skills, a higher capacity for learning and greater alertness when it comes to visual tracking and scanning.
This cognitive boost remained statistically significant even when taking into account other factors that may have influenced the results, such as socio-demographic characteristics (age, gender, marital status, education etc.), lifestyle patterns, cardiovascular health and overall diet.
The only association that faded slightly when controlling for other determinants was between chocolate intake and working memory, which refers to the ability to retain information so as to plan and complete tasks.
The study only alludes to the fact that consuming chocolate on a regular basis may be associated with an improvement in vital cognitive functions, without proving a causality between the two.
Even so, these results, which may be explained by the fact that chocolate contains a high amount of brain-boosting methylxanthines and flavonoids, can only delight those who already have a sweet tooth.
Prior research has already indicated that chocolate intake can have numerous positive effects, by diminishing the effects of UV radiation following sun exposure, by regulating blood circulation, by boosting cardiovascular health, and by improving lipid profiles (cholesterol and triglyceride levels).
Another scientific paper has shown that having a small piece of chocolate before mealtime can induce a feeling of satiety, allowing people to lower their calorie intake. Similarly, consuming one such tiny square after dining can lower the propensity to turn to snacks later that day.
It is also commonly thought that chocolate can alleviate symptoms associated with PMS, improve milk supply while nursing, heighten libido, assist in mood regulation, lower fever, re-balance sleep cycles, and, surprisingly enough, prevent tooth decay and cavities.
Now, it appears that one more benefit will be added to the mix, given the fact that researchers have just shown that chocolate intake may help delay or halt cognitive impairment that appears as the individual ages.
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