Chocolate is one of the most indulgent foods enjoyed worldwide, but a recent study shows that eating chocolate may make you smarter, too.

Recent findings from the Nutritional Physiology Research Center at the University of South Australia, the University of Maine and LIH Luxembourg Institute of Health suggest that chocolate improves cognitive function.

Georgina Crichton, of the Alliance for Research in Exercise, Nutrition and Activity at the Sansom Institute for Health, researched how cognitive function is affected by chocolate intake. Data was taken from the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, which followed 968 participants ages 23-98.

Habitual chocolate consumption was compared to participants’ cognitive function and measured with neuropsychological tests. It was found that frequent chocolate intake was associated with a better global composite score, visual-spatial memory and organization, working memory, scanning and tracking, abstract reasoning and the mini-mental state examination. Cognitive scores were significantly higher for those who ate chocolate once per week, compared to those who never or rarely ate chocolate.

Chocolate and cocoa products are rich in flavonoids, a naturally occurring polyphenolic compound found in plant-based foods. Flavanols, and particularly epicatechin, are a subgroup of flavonoids. The report notes that adopting dietary patterns including regular intake of cocoa flavanols can have a beneficial effect on cognitive function and possibly protect cognitive decline related to aging. Other studies mentioned in the research have similar findings.

Chocolate and cocoa consumption, in consideration with caloric intake, can optimize health benefits, but longer-term clinical trials could give more insight into the association between cocoa flavanols and neuropsychological health, the report said.