Chocolates are generally associated with unhealthy effects that are specially true to people with issues related to high calorie intakes. Aside from the sugar and milk ingredients added to chocolate products, base cocoa ingredient have inherent chemical compounds like theobromine and caffeine that could cause adverse side effects to individuals with existing dietary concerns.
Lucky for those who have no quarrels with cocoa and other chocolate additives since Italian researchers have found evidence that regular intake of chocolate, particularly the dark chocolate kind, can improve cognitive functions over time.
Through the years, there has been a number of claims about the health benefits of cocoa, but mostly based on random trials in limited numbers that produced literature with a mishmash of results.
Back in 2017, a team of Italian researchers took interest on a claim about the beneficial effects of chocolates in relation to memory improvement. They then conducted a review of literature reporting the effects of serious and long-term administration of a cocoa phytochemical called flavanol, on brain activities.
The review of the studies simply required fortunate subjects to regularly consume cocoa in the form of drink or bar, in different amounts and for different durations. Some were asked to take low, medium or large amount of cocoa for a specific period of time, 5 days at the least or up to three months at the most.
The results of the study showed there was sufficient evidence to support previous health claims linked to cocoa, particularly to its flavanol compound. The health benefits though varied and depended on the demographics of the subjects who participated in the tests.
Yet one stood out as most significant, which concerned the elderly participants. It turned out that long-term intake of cocoa flavanols can help improve mental processing, attention, working memory and verbal fluency. The beneficial health effects were most significant in those who manifested the beginnings of memory loss.
Study authors and researchers Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara of the Department of Psychology at the University of L’Aquila in Italy, reported that their review of the health claim, suggests that there is enough proof to believe that cocoa flavanols have the potential to improve cognitive performance, particularly to protect cognition in vulnerable populations.
What Exactly are Flavanols?
Cocoa beans are excellent sources of phytochemical compounds called flavonoids, which have been studied and classified as antioxidants. The type of flavonoids found in cocoa solids are called flavanols. However, not all cocoa beans retain much of the flavanol compound especially white chocolates. This denotes that only dark chocolates have flavanol contents.
Take notice that chocolate bar wrappers do not include flavanols in the nutritional values. Still, the amount of flavanols can be determined by checking out the amount of chocolate solids used as ingredient; and from there get a good idea which chocolate bar has the most flavanol contents.