More good news for chocolate lovers. A new study published in the journal Appetite suggests eating chocolate is positively linked to improved cognitive function. The findings support recent clinical trials suggesting that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function, and possibly protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.
While chocolate and cocoa flavanols have been associated with improved health and cardiovascular benefits, less is known about the effects of chocolate on neurocognition and behavior.
For the study, researchers investigated whether chocolate intake was associated with cognitive function, with adjustment for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors. Cross-sectional analyses were undertaken on 968 community-dwelling participants in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) aged 23 to 98 years, and cognitive performance was measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Abstract Reasoning and the Mini-Mental State Examination
The researchers found chocolate intake was positively associated with cognitive performance, across a range of cognitive domains in this dementia-free, community-dwelling population. The associations between more frequent weekly chocolate consumption and cognitive performance remained significant after adjustment for a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including total and LDL-cholesterol, glucose levels, and hypertension. Associations were not attenuated with the addition of dietary variables (alcohol, meats, vegetables, and dairy foods), indicating that chocolate may be associated with cognition irrespective of other dietary habits.
U.S. chocolate sales were estimated at $22 billion in 2015, and the category is experiencing a strong pace of innovation, an influx of creative new players and a steady flow of new products that engage consumers. However, one of the biggest drivers for the category is the growing body of research that supports the status of cocoa as a superfood, with multi-dimensional nutritional benefits. This positive halo around chocolate enhances its image as a guilt-free indulgence, and can ultimately drive more consumption.
In light of increasing consumer demand for less caloric and better-for-you products featuring lower sugar content and non-GMO ingredients, formulators are seeking out versatile ingredients that not only are easy to integrate into food and beverages, but also deliver specific and reliable health benefits. Download the free “Sweets for the Sweet: Sweeteners in Confectionery" Digital Issue to find out more about the global market place and better-for-you ingredients formulators are using to create healthier chocolates.