The cognitive benefits of eating chocolate

Easter eggsWith Easter about a month away, its good news for chocolate lovers as new research has revealed that those who eat chocolate at least once per week performed better on multiple cognitive tasks, compared to those who ate chocolate less frequently.

This research was undertaken by Dr Georgie Crichton, of the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity (ARENA) at the Sansom Institute for Health, in collaboration with the University of Maine and the Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Dr Crichton contacted Professor Merrill Elias, who headed the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) – a study which has tracked 1,000 people over 30 years, measuring a whole range of health variables, and together they examined whether habitual chocolate intake was associated with cognitive function, in nearly 1,000 individuals in the MSLS.

“Chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improvements in a range of health complaints dating from ancient times, and have established cardiovascular benefits, but less is known about the effects of chocolate on neurocognition and behavior,” Dr Crichton says.

“We examined whether habitual chocolate intake was associated with cognitive function (brain function - memory, concentration, reasoning, information processing), in nearly 1,000 individuals in the MSLS and found that those who ate chocolate at least once per week (or more), performed better on multiple cognitive tasks, compared to those who ate chocolate less than once per week.”

These cognitive measures included verbal memory, scanning and tracking, visual-spatial memory and organization, and abstract reasoning, including testing the ability to remember and recall a list of words or remember where an object was placed, retain information, process it and then recall it.

“With the exception of working memory, these relations were not attenuated with statistical control for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors. This means 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,” Dr Crichton says.

“Previous research has mostly examined the acute effects of increasing chocolate consumption on cognition, (ie performance) immediately after consuming a chocolate bar/cocoa drink. Our research has looked at habitual intakes.”

Given the results of this research, published this month, Dr Crichton is keen to emphasize that chocolate consumption should always be balanced against a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“Of course chocolate intake should be considered within an overall healthy eating pattern, with consideration given to total energy intake and an individual’s energy needs,” Dr Crichton says. 

 For further information:

Contact: Georgina Crichton email Georgina.Crichton@unisa.edu.au

 Media contact: Will Venn office +61 883020096 mob 0401 366 054 email will.venn@unisa.edu.au

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