NEW YORK - APRIL 05: A girl looks over chocolates in a case at Jacques Torres Chocolate April 5, 2007 in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. New York City. Easter is one of the busiest times of year for Jacques Torres Chocolate. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Photo: Chris Hondros
Photo: Chris Hondros

Eating chocolate improves brain function, study says

Chocolate lovers, rejoice: A new study says your sweet tooth will bring you more than cavities and calories; it could help improve your brain function.

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The study, published in Appetite, examined data collected during a previous study in which people were measured for dietary intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Participants were also given a series of tests designed to measure cognitive function. 

"More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on (tests, including) visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning and the mini-mental state examination," researchers said.

They also suggested that regular chocolate consumption could help "protect against normal age-related cognitive decline."

Chocolate has historically been used to "reduce fever, treat childhood diarrhea, decrease ‘female complaints,’ increase breast-milk production, encourage sleep and to clean teeth," according to the study.

Scientific studies have shown that the sweet is also good for the heart and circulation, reduces the risk of stroke and cholesterol and protects skin against sun damage. It's been said to aid in weight loss too: Neuroscientist Will Clower said eating a small amount of chocolate before a meal triggers hormones in the brain that say “I’m full,” cutting the amount of food that you subsequently consume, the Telegraph reported.

But there may be a catch. Don't jump to load up on Kit Kats and Reese's. You're more likely to reap the positive benefits by consuming dark chocolate, not milk or white chocolates. Dark chocolate contains significantly more flavonoids, molecules also found in red wine, fruits and vegetables that provide health benefits through cell-signalling pathways and antioxidant effects.

"It is evident that nutrients in foods exert differential effects on the brain. As has been repeatedly demonstrated, isolating these nutrients and foods enables the formation of dietary interventions to optimize neuropsychological health," researchers wrote. "Adopting dietary patterns to delay or slow the onset of cognitive decline is an appropriate avenue, given the limited treatments available for dementia. The present findings support recent clinical trials suggesting that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline."

Read more here.

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