Eating the sweet stuff could improve brain function
Eating chocolate could improve the brain’s ability to do maths, a new study suggests. Mental arithmetic became easier after volunteers had been given large amounts of compounds found in chocolate, called flavanols, in a hot cocoa drink.
The flavanols, part of a group of chemicals called polyphenols, work by increasing the flow of blood into the brain.
For the study 30 volunteers were asked to count backwards in groups of three from a random number between 800 and 999 generated by a computer. They were able to do the calculations more quickly and more accurately after they had been given the drink.
The volunteers were also less likely to feel tired or mentally drained, the findings, presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Brighton show. Prof David Kennedy, director of the brain, performance and nutrition research centre at Northumbria University, and a co-author of the study, said that chocolate could be beneficial for mentally challenging tasks.
‘For things that are difficult to do, mentally demanding things that maybe crop up in your work it could help,’ Prof Kennedy said.
Although the amount was too great to be found naturally in the diet, researchers said that people should ensure that they have lots of flavanols, also found in fruit and vegetables, on a regular basis.
Emma Wightman, one of the study's lead researchers, said: ‘You can get bars of chocolate that have 100mg of flavanol, and we are also going to look at the effect of lower doses of flavanol on the brain.’ Dark chocolate contains higher quantaties of the chemical than plain or milk chocolate.
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