If you were looking for an excuse to start your day with a bowl of Cocoa Krispies topped with chocolate milk, science has your back. A study published recently in Frontiers in Nutrition looked at the effects of cocoa and cocoa-derived food (read: chocolate) and found that they have "the potential to counteract cognitive decline and sustain cognitive abilities, particularly among patients at risk."
The secret lies in flavanols, a class of natural compounds that has "neuroprotective effects" (meaning, it's good for your brain), and chocolate happens to be filled with the stuff. The study's authors, Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L'Aquila in Italy, found that participants—lucky, lucky participants—showed improvements in memory and were better able to process visual information after having cocoa flavanols. The study also showed that, for women at least, cocoa actually counteracted the cognitive impairment that comes with sleep deprivation.
This isn't just good news for college kids pulling all-nighters, though. In fact, the effects of cocoa flavanols were more easily seen in older populations, and particularly those who had already started to lose memory or suffered from other mild cognitive impairments. Long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from 5 days up to 3 months) improved attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency. So maybe get your grandma an extra Whitman's Sampler the next time you see her.