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Health Benefits Of Chocolate Can Boost Brain Power

03/09/2016 12:45 EST | Updated 03/10/2016 12:59 EST

Eating chocolate won't just make you happier and healthier, but scientists say it'll make you smarter too.

In a new study published in the journal Appetite, researchers discovered a link between regular intake of chocolate with improved cognitive function, including memory retention.

The study, which was originally focused on observing the relationship between people's blood pressure and brain performance, changed directions in the early 2000s when lead researcher psychologist Merrill Elias asked participants about their diets.

"We found that people who eat chocolate at least once a week tend to perform better cognitively," Elias told the Washington Post.

But if you think smart people just prefer chocolate, you would be wrong. According to Elias and nutrition researcher Georgina Crichton, their study's findings show "the direction is not that cognitive ability affects chocolate consumption, but that chocolate consumption affects cognitive ability."

While the reasons are still unclear, Elias and Crichton both suspect the nutrients found in chocolate have something to do with its brain boosting benefits.

Last year, researchers at Loma Linda University in California discovered cacao flavanoids in chocolate are absorbed by regions of the brain associated with learning and memory. Chocolate also contains methlyxanthines, which researchers at the University of Barcelona have linked to increased concentration and more efficient thinking.

While Elias and Crichton's study does not specify which types of chocolate work best when it comes to brain power, dark chocolate has long been linked with improving cardiovascular health.

Of course, this good news doesn't give you full licence to over-indulge in your favourite chocolate bars. As Elias notes, "what we can say for now is that you can eat small amounts of chocolate without guilt if you don't substitute chocolate for a normal balanced healthy diet."

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