Dark chocolate wakes up your brain, according to new research.
"Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way," the study’s author, Larry Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University said in a university release. "It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels."
The Hershey Company sponsored the study, which has been published in the journal NeuroRegulation and noted on sciencedaily.com. It’s the first to look at the acute effects of chocolate on attention characteristics of the brain and the first to use electroencephalography (EEG) technology to measure the brain’s activity during chocolate research, according to the release.
Stevens and his team performed the EEG study with 122 subjects between the ages of 18 and 25. They subjects ate a 60-percent cacao bar, and the researchers measured their EEG levels and blood pressure compared with five control conditions.
The brains of the subjects who ate the cacao were more alert, according to the results. Their blood pressure also went up for a short time.
To address that, the researchers studied a 60-percent cacao bar that also included l-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that acts as a relaxant. Hershey was interested in the combo.
For participants who consumed the high-cacao content chocolate with L-theanine, researchers recorded an immediate drop in blood pressure. “It’s remarkable. The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure and helps you pay attention,” Stevens said.
Last year, a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association suggested dark chocolate helped older people increase the time and distance they were able to walk.