For many of us, sinking our teeth into a bar of chocolate is one of life’s greatest joys.
Now, a study has found it may improve memory, concentration and problem-solving skills.
Researchers discovered those who ate any type of chocolate at least once a week performed better on a range of brain tests than than those who didn’t indulge.
This may be due to a compound called flavanols in the sweet treat, which are abundant in dark chocolate but less so in milk or white chocolate, they said.
Flavanols are a type of antioxidant, a compound which may prevent or delay some types of cell damage, and are also found in citrus fruit, tea and wine.
They have already been shown to reduce the risk of dementia, as well as fighting weight gain and lowering the chances of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
The study, by the University of South Australia, used data from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), which tracked 1,000 people over 30 years and measured a whole range of health indicators.
They examined whether eating chocolate habitually was associated with better brain function.
They analyzed its effects on memory, concentration, reasoning and information processing.
This included testing their ability to remember and recall a list of words or remember where an object was placed, retain information, process it and then recall it.
They found those who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on those who ate chocolate less than once a week.
Lead author Dr Georgie Crichton, of 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.
‘They have established cardiovascular benefits, but less is known about the effects of chocolate on cognition and behavior.
Previous research has mostly examined the effects of chocolate consumption on brain performance immediately after eating a chocolate bar or drinking a cocoa drink.
But his research looked at habitual intake of the treat.
The association between chocolate consumption and better brain function remained significant even when the researchers adjusted for factors such as age, sex, education, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, total energy and alcohol intake, he added.
However, he emphasized that chocolate should be consumed as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
He said: ‘Of course chocolate intake should be considered within an overall healthy eating pattern, with consideration given to total energy intake and an individual’s energy needs.’
A previous study found a daily dose of chocolate could help keep dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.
Researchers found that consuming cocoa every day helped improve mild cognitive impairment – a condition involving memory loss which can progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s – in elderly patients.