Eating Dark Chocolate May Make You More Focused and Alert

First Posted: May 08, 2015 05:31 PM EDT

Want to beat your midday slump? Then you may want to eat some dark chocolate. Scientists have found that those who eat chocolate experience an immediate stimulant effect.

Chocolate has long been recognized as a vasculator, which means that it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure in the long run. However, scientists haven't known whether it causes a more immediate stimulant effect.

In this latest study, the researchers examined the acute effects of chocolate on attentional characteristics of the brain. In this case, the scientists used electroencephalography, or EEG technology, in order to take images of the brain while it was a performing a cognitive task and measure the brain activity.

The study was performed with 122 participants between the ages of 18 and 25. The researchers examined the EEG levels and blood pressure effects of consuming a 60 percent cacao confections compared with five control conditions.

So what did they find? It turns out that the participants that consumed the chocolate had brains that were more alert and attentive after consumption. In addition, their blood pressure increased for a short time afterward.

"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," said Larry Stevens, one of the researchers, in a news release.

What's important to note that a regular chocolate bar with high sugar and milk content doesn't have the same effect. Instead, it's the high-cacao content chocolate that has these effects.

What's more interesting is that chocolate with L-theanine within it, which is an amino acid found in green tea that acts as a relaxant, caused participants to have an immediate drop in blood pressure. However, finding chocolate with L-theanine isn't as simple as going to the candy store. The product has yet to be released to the market.

The findings reveal that chocolate isn't necessarily unhealthy. Instead, chocolate with a high cacao content could be good for you and help you stay focused.

The findings are published in the journal Neuro Regulation.

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