People who eat chocolate at least once a week perform better on multiple cognitive tasks, new research finds.
The study — covering 30 years — is one of the first to link regular chocolate consumption over the long-term with higher performance on multiple cognitive functions.
Chocolate could also help protect against age-related memory decline.
Dr Georgie Crichton, the study’s first authors, said:
“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.”
Over 1,000 people included in the study had been tracked over 30 years.
A whole series of health and cognitive variables were measured.
The researchers found that regular chocolate eaters performed better on tests of working memory, reasoning and attention.
Dr Crichton explained:
“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.
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.
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.”
Naturally, chocolate should be consumed as part of a healthy diet, Dr Crichton said:
“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.”
The study was published in the journal Appetite (Crichton et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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