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Could chocolate boost brain power?

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Here’s some food for thought while we’re tucking into our chocolate eggs…

 

Once considered ‘Food of the Gods’ by the Ancient Maya, chocolate has been known to produce a transient feeling of well-being and some people think of it as an aphrodisiac (**anecdotal evidence alert, more on that here!**) On a more scientific level, dark 70% chocolate contains around 8-10g fibre per 100g (3g in milk chocolate) making it ‘high fibre’ to feed our gut bacteria.

 

Cocoa is one of the best-known sources of polyphenols, packing in a higher antioxidant punch than most foods. While these polyphenols decrease during the processing (which in turn reduces the bitterness), generally speaking the higher the cocoa content the higher the level of polyphenols. Several studies have linked dark chocolate consumption with potential health-promoting effects, including regulating insulin levels and lowering blood pressure, as well as lowering risk of stroke and type-2 diabetes. 

 

Cocoa intake may even influence the growth of certain microbes in our gut too!

 

Now for the boring truths… many of the above effects were shown with cocoa (vs chocolate) and were from observational studies – so more high quality feeding studies are needed before I start ‘prescribing’ it to treat conditions (apart from mental heath – which anecdotally has worked a treat for some of my older patients!)

 

Chocolate = brain food?

 

One study looking at the link between chocolate intake and brain assessments, including memory, brain performance and mental state, showed that all brain scores were significantly higher in those who ate chocolate at least once a week, compared to those who never or rarely had chocolate.

 

Interestingly, those who ate chocolate were also found to consume more veggies and less alcohol.

The bottom line: While downing a block of chocolate each day isn’t going to boost your IQ, enjoying a few squares regularly may indeed support your brain health. Either way, I can safely say chocolate is great for our taste buds and that’s more than good enough too!