Best News Of The Week: Chocolate Makes You Smarter, Says Science

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chocolate improves brain function.

I love chocolate, and even though I try to cut way back on the sugar there are times I need some chocolate. It makes me feel better when I'm feeling low. I love its deliciously rich taste, its texture, and how it just makes everything better.

I always suspected that chocolate was good for us, and now a study published in the journal Appetite has found that eating chocolate on the regular helps improve brain function.

The researchers write, "Our study demonstrated positive associations between habitual chocolate consumption and cognitive performance." Do I hear a hooray?

It's not surprising that chocolate is good for the brain, as chocolate (the main byproduct of the cacao plant) has been associated with improvements in a range of health complaints dating from ancient times. The earliest evidence for the medical uses of chocolate were found in Mesoamerican civilizations; iconographic works and fragments, writings and remnants in the pottery suggest that cacao was prepared in beverage form, at least as early as 600 B.C.

Spanish conquistador Cortés is credited with bringing samples of cacao to King Charles of Spain in 1528, and spreading the wonderful effects of the beverage made from this brown gold. It was also called royal drink, as Emperor Montezuma apparently drank it 50 times a day.

The popularity of chocolate continues to grow. In 2009, 7.2 million tons of chocolate was consumed worldwide. Most of the time we associate chocolate with pleasure and enjoyment, and it's often a craved food due to its natural awesomeness. Medicinally, chocolate has been used to reduce fever, treat diarrhea, help with PMS, increase breast-milk production, encourage sleep and even clean teeth. 

Aging is usually accompanied by declined brain function, including memory and processing speed. However, the study found that regular intake of cocoa flavanols have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.

In other words, eating chocolate can help keep you sharp.

For the study, the researchers used data collected from a Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), in which 968 people between the ages of 23 and 98 were measured for dietary intake and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as cognitive function.

The researchers found that eating chocolate on a regular basis was significantly associated with cognitive function regardless of their other dietary habits. The more frequent the chocolate consumption, the more significant the performance on cognitive tests, including visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning, and the mini-mental state examination.

It turns out that chocolate is just as good for your brain as it is for your broken heart, so now when you crave a chocolate bar or a slice of decadent chocolate lava cake, remind yourself that you're not overindulging — you're simply working on improving your cognitive functioning.

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