It's news we love to hear, if the latest research is to be believed, chocolate is brain food!
According to a panel of scientists, a specially formulated type of cocoa may boost brain function and delay decline as people age.
The scientists presented the results from early studies which tested the effects on the brain of an ingredient found in cocoa, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.
They say the results suggest flavanols, a naturally occurring nutrient abundant in fresh cocoa, offer benefits for the brain by improving blood vessel function.
British scientist Ian Macdonald of the University of Nottingham Medical School, conducted a small brain imaging study on young, healthy women to see whether flavanol-rich cocoa helped boost cognitive function during challenging mental tasks.
Macdonald says although the beverage did not improve their performance on the tests, it did increase blood flow to their brains for a two to three-hour period, and he believes more research might show that increased blood flow could benefit older adults and those who have cognitive impairments, such as fatigue or even mini-strokes.
The British findings are supported by an American study of healthy adults over 50 where a marked rise in blood flow was also found.
Dr. Norman Hollenberg, of Harvard Medical School has studied the effects of cocoa and flavanols on Panama's Kuna Indian population, who are heavy consumers of cocoa.
The indigenous population still living on the Islands near Panama consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis and experience unusually low rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Dr. Hollenberg says the results are promising but the brain benefit needs to be verified in a large clinical trial.
The researchers say that while the results may have important implications for learning and memory, bingeing on the special Mars chocolates may not be a good idea as they are high in calories.
Harold H. Schmitz, Ph.D., chief science officer at Mars, which helped sponsor the symposium, has supported research on cocoa flavanols for more than 15 years, and he says the research is impressive in that multiple laboratories are arriving at the same conclusion about flavanol-rich cocoa.
Mars has funded a great deal of research into the nutritional and medical potential of cocoa's naturally occurring flavanols, resulting in more than 100 peer-reviewed research publications on cocoa and more than 30 patents held by Mars scientists.
Using a patented process called Cocoapro which helps retain consistent levels of the cocoa flavanols that occur naturally in cocoa beans, the company has developed products such as Dove Dark Chocolate and CocoaVia snacks.
For more information on the many research studies on cocoa flavanols, visit http://www.cocoapro.com.