Dark chocolate can improve attention and a new formula may also lower blood pressure, a study shows.
Professor Larry Stevens, who conducted the study, said:
“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way.
It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”
The study measured the effects of eating 60% cacao chocolate (commonly called dark chocolate) on the brain waves of 122 participants.
They found that chocolate boosted attention and people were more alert for a period — although their blood pressure increased.
Professor Stevens said:
“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”
The researchers also tried chocolate containing a substance called L-theanine.
L-theanine is a relaxant that is found in green tea.
Professor Stevens explained:
“L-theanine is a really fascinating product that lowers blood pressure and produces what we call alpha waves in the brain that are very calm and peaceful.
We thought that if chocolate acutely elevates blood pressure, and L-theanine lowers blood pressure, then maybe the L-theanine would counteract the short-term hypertensive effects of chocolate.”
The study found that participants who consumed this got the boost from the chocolate but the L-theanine reduced their blood pressure.
Although chocolate with L-theanine is not commercially available, Professor Stevens thinks there is potential:
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.”
The study was published in the journal NeuroRegulation (Montopoli et al., 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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