Posted in Kafevend Blog

Welcome back to the Kafevend blog! Today we are going to have a look at the interesting results garnered from a study that has been running since the 1970s in America, when the researchers asked the participants about their diets over the years. Before we get to that bit however, just what is this study?

The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study has been going on since 1976 at the University of Maine, started by a psychologist called Merrill Elias. Around 2,000 people have taken part in the study over the years, though not concurrently- there are about 1,000 people participating at the moment. The purpose of the study- alluded to in the name- was to carry out a long term analysis of developments of the subjects' ageing, cognitive performance and cardiovascular diseases. Every five years questionnaires would go out to gather data from the participants. The sixth such one in 2006 incorporated a section on diet, as the researchers knew that our diets had effects on the topics they were studying. Now for the interesting bit- when they looked at this data, they saw that chocolate appeared to be having a positive effect in some areas.

A nutrition researcher called Georgina Crichton from the University of South Australia took interest in the study, and came to work with Elias on analysing the data concerning the subjects' diets. Their first analysis compared the mean scores of a number of cognitive tests between those who ate chocolate at least once a week, and those who ate it less than once a week. They found that even after adjusting the results for possible blips caused by age, education and such, those who were having more chocolate performed better in the tests. A second analysis checked to see whether the chocolate was causing the braininess, or whether people who were already brainy had a tendency to go for chocolate- it appeared to be the former, usefully.

The researchers aren't sure why this is the case, but they suspect it might be something to do with a nutrient known as flavanol. Rightly so, Elias was quick to point out of course that more research needed to be done to nail down just what was happening, and that gorging on chocolate wouldn't really be that helpful- as part of a balanced diet though, it was worth considering. He now wants to look at the effects of different types of chocolate, such as dark, milk and white, as well as looking in greater depth at the effect the amount of chocolate you eat can have.

So there you have it folks- yet more scientific work that puts chocolate in a good light, as if it needed any more! It's important to remember that too much will be bad for you- too much fat and sugar in your diet is never a good thing. But a bit of dark chocolate now and then, or a steaming mug of cocoa, is probably a good thing!

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