Confused about Chocolate?

There seems to be a bit of a debate about whether or not chocolate is good for you. On the one hand there is increasing evidence that the substances found in cocoa called flavonoids, seem to be protective, but on the other hand, cocoa is so bitter that there has to be a lot of sugar and fat added to make it palatable. So, much will naturally depend on how you consume it.

In an Italian study, a group of elderly participants who drank high-dose cocoa showed significantly reduced cognitive impairment. They also had lower levels of insulin resistance, lower blood pressure and oxidative stress, the ageing factor. Some of those participants who performed best in cognitive tests also had lowered insulin resistance levels. Published in the American Heart Association's journal, Hypertension, the researchers said they had found evidence that drinking cocoa flavanols as part of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally-balanced diet could improve cognitive function.

Mild cognitive impairment can include difficulty with:

  • memory
  • language
  • thinking
  • judgment

The thought is that the improvements in cognition could be due to the cocoa flavanols that affect cardiovascular functioning. The lead researcher said: "...the role of cocoa flavanols in preventing or slowing the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia was worthy of further research, given the global rise in cognitive disorders".

The team concluded that flavanols could be one element of a dietary approach to maintaining and improving not only cardiovascular health, but also, brain health. However, experts cautioned people against thinking that they should start eating chocolate every day on the basis of a single study.

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The pressure of blood within the arteries. Full medical glossary
Decline in mental capacity, brain functioning and memory that affects day-to-day living. Full medical glossary
One of the three main food constituents (with carbohydrate and protein), and the main form in which energy is stored in the body. Full medical glossary
Compounds found in some fruits and vegetables that have antioxidant effects. Full medical glossary
A hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas that acts to lower blood glucose levels. Full medical glossary
A reduced response of the body to the hormone insulin, resulting in raised blood glucose levels. Full medical glossary
The ability of a microbe, such as a type of bacteria, to resist the effects of antibiotics or other drugs. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
Relating to blood vessels. Full medical glossary