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Chocolate to the aid of brain
March 1, 2016, 4:30 pm
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A recent study found that people who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better at multiple cognitive tasks than those who ate chocolate less frequently. Examining data from nearly 1,000 adults, who were part of a long-term health study that tracked a variety of health variables, researchers found that chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improvements in neuro-cognition and behavior.” The effect of habitual chocolate eating was assessed by a battery of tests to measure brain performance.

These included verbal memory, scanning and tracking, visual-spatial memory and organization, and abstract reasoning, including testing an individual’s ability to remember and recall a list of words or remember where an object was placed. Researchers found that irrespective of factors including age, sex, education, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, total energy and alcohol intake, the relationship between chocolate intake and cognition remained significant.

Though they are not sure, the researchers speculate that flavanoids, which occur naturally in plant-based foods, and which represent up to 20 percent of the compounds present in cocoa beans, may be at least partly responsible by protecting against normal, agerelated cognitive decline. In addition to cocoa flavonols, other psychoactive components of chocolate include the methylxanthines, caffeine and theobromine, both of which have been associated with improving alertness and cognitive function, they say.

The amount of cocoa in chocolate ranges from approximately 7percent to 15 percent in milk chocolate and up to 30 percent to 70 percent in dark chocolate. So, if you are going for a chocolate treat, dark chocolate is usually your best bet.

The higher the percentage of cocoa solids, typically the more flavonoids the chocolate has. But eating lots of chocolate is not going to make a more brainer you; chocolate intake should be considered within an overall healthy eating pattern, with consideration given to total energy intake and an individual’s energy needs.

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