Get Smart – Eat Chocolate


Back in the mid-1970s, psychologist Merrill Elias began studying the relationship of blood pressure to brain performance. The study continued for decades, and expanded over the years to gauge the connections between food and general health.

And after 40 years, Elias’ research revealed an interesting insight into people who consume chocolate – in general, those who eat chocolate at least one a week tend to be cleverer than those who don’t.

Elias and his team had a pool of about 1,000 people who had agreed to take part in the study over the decades. The research collected in the five years between 2001 and 2006 revealed the interesting pattern between chocolate consumption and cognitive abilities.

The findings, detailed in a new study, were pulled from the data by Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher at the University of South Australia.

There are several studies that reveal positive outcomes from eating chocolate. Elias’ data and Crichton analysis are unique in exploring the connection between chocolate, brain activity and behavior.

As noted in a report by the Chicago Tribune, the researchers found “significant positive associations” between chocolate intake and cognitive performance, associations which held even after adjusting for such variables as age, education, cardiovascular risk factors and dietary habits.

Eating chocolate was significantly associated with superior “visual-spatial memory and working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning and the mini-mental state examination,” notes the Tribune. All of that means that chocolate eaters excel at everyday tasks, “such as remembering a phone number, or items on your shopping list, or being able to do two things at once, like talking and driving at the same time”.

Which Came First, Chocolate Or Brain Power?

According to the research, the chocolate eaters who participated in the study showed no history of being particularly brilliant before they began eating chocolate. While this doesn’t disprove 100% that smart people naturally crave chocolate, the team feels that the chocolate can be credited with the jump in cognitive performance.

So what’s the magic ingredient in chocolate? No one knows yet. They suspect, and other studies have indicated, that cocoa flavanols have a helpful effect on people’s brains.  Various studies have credited cocoa flavanols with the ability to reduce age-related loss of brain functioning, and “positively influence psychological processes”. It seems likely that cocoa flavanols may increase blood flow to the brain, which would enhance some brain functions. Bonus: chocolate contains methylxanthines, plant-produced compounds believed to increase concentration levels.

Dr. Elias said that he’d “really like to see what happens when people eat tons of chocolate…” In the meantime, though, it would be best to keep your chocolate consumption to a small portion once or twice a week, assuming you have no physical conditions that would make it unwise to indulge in chocolate.

Chocolate and Your Teeth

So do you have to sacrifice your smile to increase your brain power? Thankfully, no.

You do want to limit sugar, which fuels the oral bacteria that cause dental decay. Once of the best ways to do this is to avoid sticky, sweet foods such as caramels, raisins and dried fruit that dissolve slowly and stick to your teeth. The same goes for hard candies (such as lollipops) or sugary cough drops. In contrast a chocolate bar dissolves quickly, making it a somewhat healthier snack.

When you do choose to eat sugary foods or drinks, it’s best to eat them as part of a well-balanced meal instead of as a solo snack. Salvia flows more freely when you’re eating a full meal, so sugars will spend less time in your mouth.

And do rinse your mouth with water after eating chocolate if you can’t follow up with a brush and floss. Remember even the healthiest food can cause dental decay if you don’t practice good oral hygiene. Brush for two minutes twice a day, and floss at least once. See your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups.

If regular dental care doesn’t fit into your budget, get healthy with a dental savings plan.

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