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Need an excuse to raid that chocolate stash? A new review may provide just that. Researchers have found that cocoa flavanols could boost cognitive function within just a few hours of consumption.

Additionally, researchers found that regular, long-term intake of cocoa flavanols may protect against cognitive decline.

Flavanols are naturally occurring compounds found in various types of plants, with some of the highest levels found in the beans of the cocoa tree.

Flavanols have antioxidant properties, meaning that they have the ability to reduce the effects of cell damage caused by oxidative stress.

What is more, studies have shown that flavanols can improve blood vessel function and lower blood pressure.

But the benefits of flavanols do not end there. A new review – recently published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition – suggests that cocoa flavanols could benefit cognitive functioning.

The research was conducted by Valentina Socci, of the University of L’Aquila in Italy, and colleagues.