12 January - 20 June 2016

Chocolate consumption and cognitive function

A study published in the journal Appetite and reported by the press, has investigated whether chocolate intake is associated with cognitive function, with adjustments for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors.

A study published in the journal Appetite and reported by the press, has investigated whether chocolate intake is associated with cognitive function, with adjustments for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors. 

Researchers from the University of South Australia, the University of Maine and the Luxembourg Institute of Health carried out a cross-sectional analysis of data from 968 people, aged 23-98, involved in the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), a large US cohort study examining cardiovascular risk factors and brain function in adults.  Dietary intake was measured using food questionnaires and cognitive function assessed using the MSLS neuropsychological test battery. Participants underwent tests in visual-spatial memory and organisation, scanning and tracking, ability to remember spoken information, working memory, similarities test, and mini-mental state exam.  Chocolate intake was classified into three intake groups: less than once per week, once per week, and more than once per week. Portion sizes were not stipulated to participants so totals are an estimate of the number of times each food was consumed on a daily basis. 

Participant demographics, health and dietary variables, and cognitive scores were compared according to chocolate consumption.  After adjusting for confounding factors, Crichton et al. report that compared to those who never or rarely ate chocolate, those who ate chocolate on a weekly basis had higher total and LDL-cholesterol, but lower glucose.  The study states that those who ate chocolate also consumed more energy, more daily servings of meat, vegetables and dairy food and less alcohol.  Participants who consumed chocolate at least once per week, performed better in the cognitive tests than those who never/rarely consumed chocolate.  The researchers report that, even after adjusting for a number of cardiovascular risk factors including total and LDL-cholesterol, glucose levels and hypertension, there was still a significant association between more frequent weekly chocolate consumption and cognitive performance.

The scientists said their results, alongside other short-term studies suggest that “regular intake of cocoa flavanols may have a beneficial effect on cognitive function and possibility protect against normal age-related cognitive decline.”  However as the questionnaire did not require the respondent to differentiate between dark, milk or white chocolate, the scientists are assuming that the majority of chocolate consumed in the sample was dark or milk which both contain cocoa flavanols in varying degrees. 

RSSL can determine physiologically active compounds, including flavanols, other polyphenols and other phytochemicals in a range of fruits, vegetables, herbals and dietary supplements.  For more information please contact Customer Services on +44 (0) 118 918 4076 or email enquiries@rssl.com 

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