March 1, 2016
By Alexander Diana
On Feb. 24, a new study from the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre at the University of South Australia showed that eating chocolate can improve cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined as one’s ability to acquire information. Cognitive functions include reasoning skills, memory, attention and language, all of which lead directly to the attainment of knowledge.
Dr. Georgie Crichton reports that there isn’t too much information regarding the long-term effects that chocolate may have on brain health and cognitive function. Most studies pertaining to the subject have focused on short-term gains rather than long-term development. Crichton’s team wished to “examine habitual or normal consumption with cognitive performance”. This means they wanted to study the chronic effects of regularly consuming chocolate on the brain rather than the immediate effects chocolate may have on cognitive function.
The research team took a sample of 968 people that varied in age and were free of dementia or any related debilitating disease, and analyzed their chocolate intake over a 30-year period. The amount of chocolate each participant consumed was documented and their cognitive functions were assessed through a series of tests and tasks including visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory scanning and tracking. Through these tests, the team was able to conclude that individuals who consumed chocolate, at least once a week, performed significantly better than those who rarely or never ate chocolate. All possible variables were accounted for including the subject’s age, sex and education.
The results were not surprising, according to Dr. Crichton. He went on to explain that the cocoa in the chocolate contains flavanols that improve blood flow to the brain as well as small amounts of caffeine, which improve alertness. It is important to note that, this particular study; subjects ingested not only dark chocolate, but milk and white chocolate as well.
The team concluded that they “recommend that a small intake of chocolate once or twice a week may be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet”. So it seems that, no matter the flavor, when chocolate is eaten in moderation, it can have positive effects on a person’s cognitive development. If we are able to incorporate chocolate into our regular balanced diet, then over time, we may see a significant improvement in our neurological capabilities.