Two new studies finding benefits from chocolate consumption: dark chocolate boosting athletic performance (in cycling), and long-term chocolate consumption (several times a week for many years) linked to better cognitive function. From Medical Xpress:
People who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on multiple cognitive tasks, compared to those who ate chocolate less frequently, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maine, University of South Australia and Luxembourg Institute of Health that has garnered international attention.
With age, education, gender, age and race controlled, cognitive tasks were related to following domains, each measured by multiple tests: Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Abstract Verbal Reasoning, Scanning and Tracking, and overall cognitive functioning. The 968 participants ages 23–98 in the study came from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, directed by Elias, which has tracked more than 1,000 people over 35 years.
The researchers hypothesized that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may be one of several mechanism explaining the cognitive benefits of chocolate. In addition, compared to those who never or rarely ate chocolate, those who ate chocolate weekly had higher total and LDL cholesterol, but lower glucose levels. Hypertension and Type 2 diabetes also were lower in regular chocolate consumers than in nonconsumers.
Dark chocolate has already been hailed for its positive effects on cardiovascular health – and now a study undertaken at London's Kingston University has found the tasty treat could help give sports enthusiasts an extra edge in their fitness training. A team led by postgraduate research student Rishikesh Kankesh Patel discovered that dark chocolate provides similar benefits to beetroot juice, now taken regularly by elite athletes after studies showed it can improve performance. "Beetroot juice is rich in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. This dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption – allowing athletes to go further for longer," Mr Patel explained.
The Kingston University team wanted to find out whether dark chocolate could provide a similar boost, as it contains a substance called epicatechin – a type of flavanol found in the cacao bean, that also increases nitric oxide production in the body.
To test the theory, Mr Patel carried out a study with a group of nine amateur cyclists.....After undergoing initial fitness tests to establish a baseline for comparison, the participants were then split into two groups. The first group was asked to replace one of its normal daily snacks with 40 g of a dark chocolate known to be rich in flavanols for a fortnight, while the other participants substituted 40 g of white chocolate for one of their daily snacks as a control.
The effects of the athletes' daily chocolate consumption were then measured in a series of cycling exercise tests in the sports performance laboratory at the University's Penrhyn Road campus....The study, which has now been published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that after eating dark chocolate, the riders used less oxygen when cycling at a moderate pace and also covered more distance in a two-minute flat-out time trial.