It is the news that will be music to the ears of millions of people out there; chocolate can actually be good for your health.
A study has found that cocoa beans are a rich source of flavanols: a class of natural compounds that has neuroprotective effects.
These flavanols have been found to improve cognitive performance.
The research was carried out by a team in Italy. They published their work in Frontiers in Nutrition.
They found that after having eaten cocoa flavanols, the participants showed improved levels of memory, and visual image processing.
Furthermore, women who had suffered a poor night’s sleep had their cognitive impairment lessened if they ate some chocolate.
For younger people the effects were very subtle and not always easy to recognise.
However, with older people, a daily intake of the flavanols contained in cocoa proved to improve various cognitive functions including attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency were greatly affected.
Authors of the study, Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L’Aquila in Italy, said: “This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance. If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. This structure is particularly affected by aging and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.
“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time. There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk.”
The scientists were also happy to add that to help their own cognitive function they eat dark chocolate every day.