A study published in NeuroRegulation shows that dark chocolate may improve attention. The study, sponsored by The Hershey Co., is the first to examine the acute effects of chocolate on attentional characteristics of the brain and the first-ever study of chocolate consumption performed using electroencephalography, or EEG technology. EEG studies take images of the brain while it is performing a cognitive task and measure the brain activity.
Historically, chocolate has been recognized as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure in the long run, but chocolate also contains some powerful stimulants. The researchers wanted to investigate if people who consume chocolate would see an immediate stimulant effect. They performed the EEG study with 122 participants, aged 18–25. The researchers examined the EEG levels and blood pressure effects of consuming a 60% cacao confection compared with five control conditions.
The results for the participants who consumed the 60% cacao chocolate showed that the brain was more alert and attentive after consumption. Their blood pressure also increased for a short time. The most interesting results came from one of the control conditions, a 60% cacao chocolate that included L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that acts as a relaxant. For participants who consumed the high-cacao content chocolate with L-theanine, researchers recorded an immediate drop in blood pressure.
The researchers hope the results of this study will encourage manufacturers to investigate further and consider the health benefits of developing a chocolate bar made with high-cacao content and L-theanine.