If you know your way around a chocolate bar, then you're already pretty smart.
But according to a new study published in the journal Appetite, it's possible that frequent chocolate consumption makes your brain even sharper.
A team of international researchers analyzed data using the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, which for four decades has tracked the ongoing health of a group of central New York residents. They found that frequent chocolate consumers performed better on all sorts of brain-powered tests, from working memory to abstract thinking to visual memory and more.
The conclusion: Eating certain kinds of chocolate may be the way to boost brain function for now, and may even help ward off dementia in the future. Yumm.
Chocolate -- namely the pure, dark kind -- has long been shown to boost heart health. But chocolate's effect on the brain is a newer subject, as the researchers pointed out in Appetite. We know, for example, that drinking hot chocolate can increase blood flow to the brain for some senior citizens, but it's a young field of research with many questions still to tackle.
For this particular study, the researchers asked 968 study participants aged 23 to 98 to record how frequently they ate chocolate and other foods. Then the participants took a range of tests to measure brain function. Those who ate chocolate more frequently tended to perform better on tests of visual and spatial memory, working memory, scanning and tracking and abstract reasoning.
In other words, their brains worked more efficiently, at least on certain tasks.
It's not yet known how much or what kind of chocolate leads to boosted brain function, but it's likely that darker is better. Cocoa powder has no added sugar and can be rich in flavanols, which some experts believe may be behind chocolate's brain-boosting powers.
"Further intervention trials and longitudinal studies are needed to explore relations between chocolate, cocoa flavanols and cognition, and the underlying causal mechanisms," the researchers wrote.
Either way, this is just one more beautiful excuse to make (healthy!) brownies tonight.
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