You may have read that dark chocolate has a number of health benefits associated with it, mainly due to its helpful dietary minerals and soluble fibre, its tremendous antioxidant content, and to the more recently discovered biologically active flavanols.
All of these compounds have been associated with lowered LDL cholesterol (the bad one), reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved insulin sensitivity, and a general anti-aging effect. All pretty compelling reasons to indulge.
But did you know chocolate can make you smarter? That’s right.
Italian researchers combed through studies and literature on the effects of both one time and longer-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols, focusing on what happens to your brain after consumption. Most of the studies pointed towards a beneficial effect on cognitive performance after just a single dose, including enhanced memory performance, improved visual information processing, and relief from the negative cognitive effects of sleep deprivation.
Long-term ingestion was even more impressive: in elderly study participants, attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency were all greatly affected and improved, particularly for those individuals with the beginnings of memory decline or mild cognitive impairments.
Authors of the review were most encouraged by this last finding, as it suggests the potential use of cocoa flavanols as brain function protection in vulnerable and aging populations.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should start eating bricks of the stuff. Studies on the health benefits of chocolate and cocoa always reference dark chocolate, the 70% or higher kind, not the sugar and additive laden candy bar variety. And even the best quality dark chocolate is decidedly high in calories.
But could cocoa and dark chocolate be considered a useful dietary supplement? Absolutely, according to authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara:
“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time.”
The scientists seemed happy to write their own prescription:
“Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”
That sounds like smart advice to me.
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