Researchers found a positive link between long-term chocolate consumption and cognitive performance. Specifically, visual-spatial memory, working memory, abstract reasoning and other brain functions can be boosted by the flavonoids contained in cocoa.
The study published in the journal Appetite is the first cohort study to examine if eating chocolate can be beneficial for brain function. Nutritionists and researchers have previously suggested that eating chocolate has a great impact on cardiovascular health.
The team of researchers analyzed data taken from a group of New York residents, whose dietary intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease had been previously recorded. Participants made multiple tests that measured cognitive domains, such as visual-spatial memory and organization, scanning and tracking, verbal episodic memory, and working memory.
Results would appear to show that people obtained a better cognitive performance when eating chocolate, regardless of their other dietary habits. Meat, rice, pasta, fruit, vegetables, alcohol, coffee and other food were included in the study registers. Moreover, when researchers took into account cardiovascular risks such as cholesterol, glucose levels and hypertension, the cognitive benefits remained stable.
Milk chocolate vs dark chocolate
Differences between what type of chocolate is most effective to improve brain performance were not established in the study. However, some researchers have proposed that dark chocolate contains higher levels of flavonoids.
According to the MARS Centre for Cocoa Health Science, cocoa flavonoids are unique and have been linked to a better cardiovascular health due to its effect in promoting a healthy blood flow. Moreover, cocoa flavonoids may improve memory in elderly adults. The substance is also found in tea, red wine and some fruits.
There’s 15 percent of cocoa in milk chocolate. On the other hand, dark chocolate is composed by 30 to 70 percent of cocoa. In 2012, researchers found that 57 percent of chocolate consumers in the United States preferred milk chocolate, 35 percent prefered dark chocolate and 8 percent preferred white chocolate.
“The present findings support recent clinical trials suggesting that regular intake of cocoa flavonoids may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.” Researchers wrote, as quoted by Medical Daily.
Science agrees that different nutrients contained in foods have different effects on the brain. According to researchers, adopting specific dietary patterns in order to slow the onset of cognitive decline, could be a great strategy.
Researchers wrote that more long-term clinical trials need to be done to specifically determine how different types of chocolate affect people’s cognition and how much chocolate should people eat.
“We would recommend that a small intake of chocolate once or twice weekly may be incorporated into a healthy, balanced diet. And for those of us who prefer milk chocolate over dark, this may be good news.” Dr. Georgie Crichton, of the Nutritional Physiology Research Centre at the University of South Australia said to Medical News Today.
U.S. Chocolate Market
Every year, 9.5 lbs of chocolate are consumed per capita in the United States, being the ninth consumer of chocolate in the world, after Switzerland, Germany, Australia and others. According to Candy Industry, chocolate sales in the country reached $21 billion in 2014.
That being said, sales are expected to grow by 2019. The market research firm Mintel said that the U.S. chocolate market will reach $25 billion in 2019 since 53 percent of consumers in the country eat chocolate at least one time per week.
Source: Medical Daily