Regularly eating dark chocolate is associated with better brain health, new research has demonstrated.

A study by the universities of Harvard and Columbia has found that certain compounds in dark chocolate can improve cognition.

Otherwise known as flavanols, the memory boosting compounds are also present in green tea, apples and berries.

Individuals would need to consume at least 500mg of flavanols every day to notice an improvement in their memory.

According to nutrition experts, consuming 500mg of flavanols per day can easily be done through diet.

“This is a really important study showing that doses of flavonoids called flavanols is key for improving memory in the ageing brain,” said Professor Aedin Cassidy from Queen’s University Belfast.

Professor Cassidy added: “The dose required for these improvements in brain health are readily achievable. For example, one mug of tea, six squares of dark chocolate, a couple of servings of berries and apples would together provide about 500mg.”

More than 3,500 older adults took part in the study. People involved in the trial either received a daily 500mg flavanol supplement or a dummy pill for three years.

Each participant also filled in diet questionnaires to outline their food intake and completed cognitive assessments so their memory ability could be examined.

The findings identify that those taking a placebo after having a poor diet and low flavanol consumption at the beginning of the study improved their cognitive ability by 10%.

Neuropsychologist, Professor Adam Brickman said: “The findings raise the possibility of using flavanol-rich diets or supplements to improve cognitive function in older adults.”

Professor David Curtis, of University College London, argued: “The authors do claim that a couple of results are statistically significant but in my view this is because the analyses have been performed incorrectly.

“If anything, this study shows that flavanol supplements don’t have any major effect on memory function.”

He added: “The study fails to provide evidence that increasing flavanol intake is beneficial and there is no need for anybody to contemplate changing their diet in the light of its findings.”

The study has been published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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