Easter: the benefits of chocolate on mental and physical health, according to science

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EASTER – This Easter Monday is not the time to skip the chocolate. Because stimulation of the brain and memory, or even the reduction of the risk of depression, are all phenomena that have been proven by scientific studies.

In May 2016, in a study published in the journal, researchers from the universities of Adelaide, Australia, Maine, USA and the Luxembourg Health Institute showed Appetite that weekly consumption (at least once) of chocolate was associated with improved cognitive performance.

About 1,000 people were questioned in the 1970s about their eating habits, and therefore their consumption of chocolate. Between 2001 and 2006, the researchers analyzed the data. As a result, those who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on cognitive tests than others. Among the intellectual abilities observed, visual memory or reasoning.

Better memory

For these scientists it is thanks to the flavonoids present in cocoa that this link between chocolate and cognitive abilities can be explained. These molecules are found in coffee or tea. It is not specified in the study but the stronger the chocolate is in cocoa, the richer it is in this molecule, so it is dark chocolate that should be preferred.

Likewise, the researchers specifically looked at the link between chocolate and memory. Published in the magazine Nature in 2014 this study shows that flavonoids also come into play here. Here, one of two groups of participants aged 50 to 69 drank a concentrated flavanol solution for three months. By the end of the trial period, blood flow increased significantly in a part of the brain linked to memory decline: the dentate gyrus. Which means, for Scott Small, one of the authors of the study, that “if a participant had the memory of a 60-year-old at the start of the test, after three months, this same person found the memory of an old man. 40 years”. However, do not rejoice too quickly: the drink ingested by the participants corresponds to the equivalent of four and a half bars of chocolate.

Mental health

Another study, another positive effect. Published in August 2019 in the magazine Depression and anxiety, this shows that the risk of depression is reduced by the consumption of dark chocolate. Canadian and British scientists from University College London analyzed the chocolate consumption of over 13,000 Americans. Their conclusion is that people who regularly ate dark chocolate were 70% less likely to be affected by depression. Other factors, such as smoking, physical activity, weight, etc., were taken into consideration to ensure they did not affect depressive symptoms.

However, further studies will be needed to confirm this link. As lead author Sarah Jackson points out, “it could be that depression makes people lose interest in chocolate, or that other factors make people less likely to eat dark chocolate and be depressed.”

Cardiovascular diseases

The benefits of chocolate aren’t limited to the brain. Some researchers, for example, have shown a correlation between its consumption and the reduction of cardiovascular disease. The study, published in the journal Heart (BJM) in 2018. After observing the chocolate consumption of 25,000 Brits, the researchers observed a link between this and being less affected by cardiovascular disease. But, since there is often a but, it is only a correlation and not a causal link. Other factors such as age or sporting practice could explain this lower propensity to develop cardiovascular disease, as pointed out by Science and the future.

Finally, be careful though. If chocolate has virtue, it is not abused. In addition to cocoa, we must not forget that chocolate is a sweet product. As such, it can be enjoyed, but in moderation.

See also on The HuffPost: at Easter, replace chocolate eggs with “pop cakes”

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