File this one under "studies we would definitely volunteer for:" New research says eating chocolate regularly can actually improve brain function.
Yes, that sweet, sticky treat you seem to crave at the most inopportune times is now being associated with a host of cognitive benefits, including memory and abstract reasoning. It's all part of a long-term, large-scale study out of Syracuse University in New York that measured the effects of chocolate consumption on 968 people aged 23 to 98, without changing their overall dietary habits.
"Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests," the researchers wrote. "More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on [these tests]."
We're willing to bet that's not the first time you've heard about a study touting the benefits of chocolate on your health. A few years ago, researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel reported that eating chocolate in the morning – yes, every morning – was found to help people lose weight, despite long-held beliefs that chocolate is one of those occasional splurge foods that dieters must resist in order to achieve their weight-loss goals.
The biggest takeaway of this research, according to study leader Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz, is that eating ahigher-calorie breakfast in the morning reduces cravings throughout the day and prevents late-night snacking.
"When you wake up, your brain needs energy immediately," said Jakubowicz, whose book "The Big Breakfast Diet" became a bestseller. "This is the time of the day when your body converts food into energy. Later in the day, when you eat, your body and brain are still in high-alert mode, saving the energy from food as fat reserve. This is how you gain weight even eating less."
So what kind of breakfast does she suggest? Breakfast with dessert, of course. Jakubowicz said in her study, people who were given a 600-calorie breakfast that included dessert as well as proteins and carbohydrates lost more weight than people who were given a 300-calorie breakfast but ate more later in the day.
What is it about chocolate that's so beneficial? Experts say it's a nutrient called a flavonoid that's commonly found in plant-based foods and represents up to 20 percent of the compounds present in cocoa beans. High levels of flavonoids are also found in tea, red wine and fruits such as grapes and apples.
So next time you're thinking about that chocolate cake looking all lonesome on your counter, sleep on it – and indulge in the morning. Your brain – and your waistline – might thank you.
SNL, apparently a science program, ahead of its time: