Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Study shows dark chocolate can improve attention span

This is 72% cacao organic dark chocolate from ...
This is 72% cacao organic dark chocolate from Blanxart. It's rather bitter and strangely dry. There are much better chocolates out there. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As if we didn't already have enough reasons to love eating dark chocolate, researchers from Northern Arizona University and Hershey have given us one more. Chocolates that possess a high cacao content have been shown to lower blood pressure and improve attention span. The new study paired EEG (electroencephalography) technology and chocolate consumption to measure participants' brain activity while performing cognitive tasks after eating small amounts of chocolate.

The 122, all between the ages of 18 and 25, were consumed various items, including high cacao chocolate (60%), low cacao chocolate (0%), high cacao chocolate with L-theanine, high sugar water, low sugar water or water. The participants who were given chocolate did not the type they were receiving and those who received the higher cacao content were found to be more alert and attentive one hour after consumption and a short term raise in blood pressure. The higher Participants who received the higher cacao content chocolate with the addition of L-theanine, however, experienced and immediate drop in blood pressure along with the added alertness of the other higher cacao content group.

Larry Stevens, professor of psychological sciences at NAU, had this to say about the study

"Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way. 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"

He goes on to point out that milk chocolates, with their higher levels of sugar and lower cacao content, would not be nearly as effective.

Of special interest to both the research team and Hershey were the effects of the chocolate containing L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. The amino acid acts a relaxant that reduces blood pressure and produces alpha waves in the brain that have a very calm and peaceful effect. The hopes are that the company will soon be producing a heart healthy chocolate that can improve attention span while lowering blood pressure.

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