According to a new review from the University of L'Aquila in Italy published in Frontiers, regular consumption of cocoa-flavored foods can help protect your brain from cognitive decline.
Researchers found that elderly individuals who eat chocolate-flavored treats daily show improved performance in areas like attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency. Seniors already showing signs of memory decline received the biggest benefits from eating chocolate, though young and healthy adults who snack on cocoa did slightly better on cognitive tests as well, although those effects were fleeting.
So what is it about chocolate that is so good for our noggins? Review authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara point to cocoa flavanols, a class of natural compounds that increase blood flow to parts of the brain affected by aging, which are present in most forms of chocolate.
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But before you go out and eat an entire bar of chocolate in one sitting, the authors avoid against overdoing it, and suggest eating small amounts of dark chocolate as opposed to sugary, high-calorie milk chocolate alternatives. “Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” Socci and Ferrara wrote. “There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk."
The authors also practice what they preach, writing: "Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”
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