A boy tastes chocolate from a chocolate fountain during a chocolate convention in Lima July 7, 2011. The three-day exhibition, which drew distributors from Latin America and chocolate sommeliers from Europe, featured organic dark chocolate candy bars, chocolate sushi and Machu Picchu sculptures carved out of the sweet stuff. Reuters/Pilar Olivares

Latest reports suggest that regular intake of chocolate and cocoa could be beneficial for cognitive functioning over time, thereby staving off degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Since there are potential side effects of having cocoa and chocolate daily, experts believe that eating dark chocolate every day is the best choice as it is a rich source of flavonols.

Side effects of having cocoa and chocolate every day are associated with calorific value and chemical compounds of the cocoa plant, theobromine and caffeine. There are also a variety of additives in chocolate, such as milk and sugar. Experiments have shown that if the elderly eat chocolate daily, there is a marked improvement in their brain functioning. The intake greatly improved verbal fluency, working memory mental ability and attention.

A person suffering from mild cognitive impairment is at a much greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition shows. The benefits of regular intake of chocolate have been most pronounced in those who have already started showing signs of mild cognitive impairment or memory decline.

However, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK Dr. Carol Routledge urged caution as the study does not specifically look at dementia. “There is no reason to think that eating a lot of chocolate could delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Current evidence suggests people can help lower their dementia risk by eating a healthy and balanced diet. And high levels of sugar are linked to dementia risk factors, such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” Dr. Routledge told The Sun.

The study has, however, shown that people who ate chocolate daily showed better attention spans, memory and ability to process speed. The antioxidants in chocolate boosted blood flow to key areas of the brain. Women can snack on a chocolate bar after a bad night’s sleep to protect themselves from the dangers of sleep deprivation, for example.

Researchers at the University of L’Aquila in central Italy also found that chocolates can boost the heart's health. Compounds such as cocoa flavanols in chocolates are responsible for the positive effects.

“If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampys. This structure is particularly affected by ageing and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans,” study leaders Michele Ferrara and Valentina Socci explained.