Dark Chocolate Can Reduce Stress And Make You Smarter, Research Finds

Leslie Hanson
April 26, 2018

Scientists are finally confirming what dark chocolate lovers already knew - the sweet treats reduce stress and improve mood.

The other study examined how cacao enhances neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain health benefits.

Presented on Tuesday at the ongoing five-day Experimental Biology 2018 meeting in San Diego, the US, two studies revealed for the first time the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time. Berk, the lead researcher of both studies, is the associate dean of research affairs for Loma Linda's School of Allied Health Professions in California.

Cacao is rich in powerful antioxidants called flavonoids and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Dark chocolate, also known as "plain chocolate", has a higher percentage of cocoa solids and very little to no dairy products.

Participants were given an EEG (brain scan) thirty minutes after consuming 48 grams of dark chocolate. The research was focused especially on the concentration of cacao and the results that are given by the research are encouraging.

According to two new studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego, consuming dark chocolate that has a high concentration of cacao (a minimum of 70% cacao) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.

Dr. Lee S. Berk of Loma Linda University and his team conducted two studies showing that large amounts of cacao in a regular chocolate bar has a positive impact on a person. Their brain activity was then monitored by placing electrodes at nine different scalp locations and measuring the electroencephalography response 30 minutes and 120 minutes after consumption. The researchers went on to say that even though dark chocolate is loaded with calories, it contains ingredients that may favour weight-loss.

The first study looked at the impact of chocolate consumption on human gene expression. The researchers observed heightened T cell activation, cellular immune response and stimulation of genes associated with neural signaling and sensory perception, which are in turn linked with hyperplasticity - a state where the brain is believed to be more receptive to muscle memory and learning new skills.

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