Researchers from Northern Arizona University have examined the chocolate consumption on attentional characteristics of brain using Electroencephalography (EEG) for the first time, and have reported that dark chocolate helps people to be more alert and attentive.
“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way,” said Larry Stevens, Psychology Professor at NAU and author of the research, published in the journal NeuroRegulation.
“It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”
Chocolate is long recognized as a substance which widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure over the long term. But it also containing some powerful stimulants and Stevens and his team wanted to investigate if these activate immediately after consumption.
One hundred and twenty participants between the ages of 18 and 25 years old were used in the study. The effect on blood pressure and EEG levels of consuming 60 percent cacao dense chocolate were examined, besides five more control samples for blind testing.
It turned out that the participants who ate high cacao density chocolate had more alert and attentive brains. Their blood pressures also experienced a hike for a short time.
“A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can’t pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention,” Stevens said.
But a regular chocolate bar with a high amount of sugar and milk is not useful, according to Stevens. Apparently a high-cocoa content is what makes it effective.
Stevens and his team also tested a new chocolate flavored with L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that acts as a relaxant. The results were surprising since blood pressure levels dropped immediately after consumption.
“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.