Regular consumption of chocolate is associated with better cognitive function, according to a study published in the journal Appetite.
The researchers said the link remained regardless of other dietary habits.
Dr Georgie Crichton, of the Sansom Institute for Health Research at the University of South Australia, 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 behaviour.’
She said they 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’.
In this study the authors have used an extensive battery of brain performance tests combined with some clever statistical manipulations in order to claim that an increased consumption of chocolate is associated with improved cognitive functioning such as improved memory.
But as the study relied on the participants` own recollections of their chocolate consumption (of any type or quantity) a more plausible conclusion is that those with better memories were simply more likely to remember whether they had eaten chocolate or not.
Elsewhere we can certainly find some sound research demonstrating the health benefits of dark chocolate in relation to, for example, lowering blood pressure. An analysis of 20 studies involving 856 healthy participants undertaken by the Cochrane Collaboration revealed a small but statistically significant effect on blood pressure. There is also evidence from elsewhere that high blood pressure can have impacts on the brain.
However, the current study by Crichton and colleagues does not support any causal link between eating chocolate (of any type or quantity) and brain function. It simply shows that those with better memories have better memories.
Research score: 1/5
The study specifically looked at the links between chocolate consumption and cognitive function, and the researchers aimed to adjust for health and lifestyle factors. The subjects — whose habitual chocolate intake was measured and compared with cognitive performance tests — were between 23 and 98 years old.