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

EASTER – On this Easter Monday, it’s not the time to skip chocolate. Because stimulation of the brain and memory, or even a reduction in the risk of depression are all phenomena that have been demonstrated by scientific studies.

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

Around 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 the 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.

In the same vein, researchers have looked specifically at the link between chocolate and memory. Published in the journal Nature in 2014, this study shows that here too, it is the flavonoids that come into play. Here, one of two groups of participants aged 50 to 69 drank a concentrated flavanol solution for three months. At the end of the test period, blood flow increased sharply 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 a memory of a sixty-year-old at the start of the test, after three months, this same person found a memory of someone old. between 30 and 40 years old”. Do not rejoice too quickly however: the drink ingested by the participants corresponds to the equivalent of four bars and a half of chocolate.

Mental Health

Another study, another positive effect. Published in August 2019 in the journal Depression and Anxiety, this shows that the risk of depression is reduced by the consumption of dark chocolate. Canadian and English scientists from University College London analyzed the chocolate consumption of more than 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 account to ensure that they did not impact depressive symptoms.

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

Cardiovascular illnesses

The benefits of chocolate are not limited to the brain. Some researchers have, for example, demonstrated a correlation between its consumption and the reduction of cardiovascular diseases. The study, published in the journal Heart (BJM) in 2018. After observing the chocolate consumption of 25,000 English people, researchers observed a link between it and being less affected by cardiovascular disease. But, because there is often a but, it is only a correlation and not a causal link. Other factors such as age or sports practice could explain this lower propensity to develop cardiovascular disease, as underlined by Science and Future.

Finally, be careful though. If chocolate has virtues, it should not be abused. Besides cocoa, it should not be forgotten that chocolate is a sweet product. As such, it can be enjoyed, but in moderation.

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

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