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In recent years scientists and researchers have become more and more interested in how different foods can protect our bodies and minds. And chocolate just happens to be one of foods we're always looking for a reason to eat more of. Luckily, chocolate (or more specifically the cocao flavanols found in chocolate) has displayed numerous health benefits when put to the test.
In a recent review paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, Italian scientists examined existing research on chocolate and the brain and were able to conclude that chocolate can actually improve cognitive performance in the short and long term.
Will this study really justify my chocolate addiction?
The research, performed at the University of Teramo, attempted to answer two questions:
1. Does eating cocao flavanols have an immediate effect on the brain?
2. What happens in the brain if you eat a cocao flavanol–enriched diet in the long term?
The existing research isn't particularly high quality, but the studies that do exists point to cocao's ability to sustain cognitive performance, which can be linked to improvements in general cognition, attention, processing speed, and memory. Even better, acute administration of cacao flavanols can help improve your cognition in the face of fatigue or sleep deprivation. In other words, if you're tired as hell, chocolate might help get your brain working again that very same day.
But how, exactly, does cacao work on the brain?
So how does this work? The theory is that cocao flavanols directly protect the health of your brain, but also improve cerebrovascular and metabolic functions—which can affect cognition as well. According to the researchers, there's still a lot we don't know about the effects of cocao on human cognition. But as of now, the results are promising and point to the possibility that it could be used as a tool to prevent or treat different types of cognitive decline. Which, if you ask us, is food as medicine at its very best.