Consumption of cocoa flavanols is found to have a positive effect on the human brain's cognitive performance. Researchers from the University of L'Aquila in Italy examined literature to establish the positive effect of chocolate consumption on different areas of the brain.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition, aimed to establish what happens to a person's cognitive abilities a few hours after consuming chocolates and after sustaining a cocoa flavanol-enriched diet for a prolonged period. The research found that women who eat cocoa after a night without sleep were able to balance the cognitive impairment that they would have gotten otherwise. The study participants were also able to show improvements in their working memory performance, as well as their improved visual information processing.
Psych Central noted that the findings could actually offer relief for those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. However, it was noted that the effect depended on the length and mental load of the tests used to measure the effect of cocoa.
The test showed that in young and healthy adults, a demanding cognitive test was required to uncover some behavioral effects from cocoa. The effects of long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols, from five days to up to three months, have been investigated in the elderly. The daily intake showed improvement on their cognitive performance.
Also, it turns out factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory and verbal fluency were also shown to have improved. Because of this, scientists believe that cocoa should become a dietary supplement to improve cognition.
Dark chocolate, in particular, is a rich source of flavanols. This is why it is recommended that people eat some dark chocolate every day. There are still potential side effects to look into with daily chocolate intake, though, such as its caloric value, caffeine and theobromine content and additives to them, such as sugar and milk.