Recently, Dr. Robert H. Shmerling found out a surprising piece of trivia.

Places where chocolate consumption is highest have the most Nobel Prize recipients! (Read the study)

Is it possible that intelligence or other measures of high brain function are actually improved by the consumption of chocolate?

The evidence says “maybe.”

Keeping your brain healthy

Let’s face it – we will try anything that helps an ageing brain.

And there is now a lot of research about ways we can ward off some of the brain disorders associated with getting older.

Regular exercise, choosing a healthy diet, maintaining a normal blood pressure, not smoking, drinking only in moderation, challenging your brain with problems or word games – all of these have research support as helpful.

Supplements are widely promoted but unproven for long-term preservation of brain function or prevention of cognitive decline. While some studies suggest that antioxidants, fish oil, stimulants such as caffeine, or other specific foods may help improve brain function or prevent dementia, these benefits are hard to prove and studies have been inconclusive at best. Robert H Schmerling MD

What about chocolate and the brain?

In May, 2017, a study of the latest evidence found that flavanols (a form of flavonoids, plant-based substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects) may benefit human brain function.

Flavanols are found in dark chocolate and cocoa, among other foods.

Here are some of the findings:

  • Short-term consumption may be helpful. e.g 2011 study of young adults found that two hours after consuming dark chocolate, memory and reaction time were better than with white chocolate. However, other similar studies showed no benefit.
  • Long-term consumption may be helpful. One 2014 study found that among adults ages 50 to 69, those taking a cocoa supplement with high flavanol content for three months had better performance on tests of memory than those assigned to take a low-flavanol cocoa supplement.
  • Some evidence shows improved brain blood flow, oxygen levels, or nerve function as measured by imaging tests or tests of electrical activity in the brain after the consumption of cocoa drinks.

The authors suggest that while these findings are encouraging and intriguing, more research is needed, especially since most studies so far have been small and many were unable to eliminate the possibility of a placebo effect. In addition, these studies cannot account for many other variables that can affect brain function (such as medical problems, cognitive function at baseline, or medication use).

Other foods with flavanols?

Many fruits and vegetables are rich in flavanols, including apples, red grapes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, beans, kale, and onions. So, a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables will be high in flavanol content.

Not all chocolate is the same.

Dark chocolate and cocoa have high flavanol levels, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have much lower levels.

Many types of chocolate are high in sugar, fats, and calories.

That needs thinking about!

See also Is Red Wine Good for my Brain?

What is your view? Leave us a message about your views on chocolate!