Chocolate could benefit brain, researchers say

There is a growing amount of research touting the benefits of chocolate, and results of a new study add another substantial health advantage to the list. Researchers found cocoa flavanols may improve the cognitive function of older adults.

The study comes out of Italy's University of L'Aquila, and looked at the effect moderate consumption of cocoa flavanols had on a group of older adults with mild cognitive impairment. Over the course of the two-month study, researchers noticed those who consumed cocoa performed better on cognitive tests than those who consumed lower amounts.

"Given the global rise in cognitive disorders, which have a true impact on an individual's quality of life, the role of cocoa flavanols in preventing or slowing the progression of mild cognitive impairment to dementia warrants further research," lead author Dr. Giovambattista Desideri said.

Of course, eating large amounts of chocolate is not a hallmark of healthy aging, but the study does suggest that having some of the popular snack now and then could actually be a good thing. Furthermore, this is not the only study to suggest a link between chocolate and better health.

Most notably, chocolate is believed to have a positive effect on heart health. About 6.7 grams of dark chocolate a day may protect the heart from inflammation, a separate Italian study found recently.