Have you ever felt "brain fog" after a long week of hard work? Or like you're not at your best. Sometimes, it's hard to explain when things aren't going right, but you find yourself having a hard time focusing or memorizing your to-do list. In this article, I will describe The six (6) chocolate benefits for your mind or cognition. You will know how a delicious snack can be helpful in those situations. Also, how dark chocolate benefits are related to improving the skills, you need daily to be more productive and efficient not only at work but for life in general.
The six (6) benefits include better brain blood flow, memory, concentration, judgment, reasoning, and attention. These are all part of your cognitive abilities in the medical language or jargon. Nowadays, a lot of dark chocolate benefits have been widely studied, such as cardiovascular benefits, skin, and happiness. These wonders are widely attributed to the high amounts of antioxidants contained in cacao and what they can do to our health. Still, cognitive benefits are not one of the primary dark chocolate benefits adjudicated yet.
However, in 2006 the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom made one medical study1 that confirmed a positive brain performance and better cognitive response on healthy people. This happened after consistent chocolate consumption due to the presence of high amounts of flavonols (antioxidants) in cacao.
The participants were all healthy women and had low caffeine consumption. They got a small flavonol-containing chocolate drink (172 mgs of antioxidants) daily for five days. They then received a cognitive test, as well as a functional MRI (brain imaging that shows brain activity)2. This session was repeated, but after getting a low antioxidant chocolate drink (13 mgs).
When the participants consumed the high-flavonol drink, the brain blood flow improved!
This pilot study indicates that cacao-rich foods, like dark chocolate, could benefit brain blood vessels in people with dementia or strokes.
I can summarize this study by saying that healthy women between 18 and 30 years old benefit. They can receive this gain by eating the equivalent of a large-size chocolate bar (60 grams) daily for five days. Even when these dark chocolate benefits sound amazing and highly positive to healthy people, they could be game-changer on patients with a high risk of cognitive impairment. These persons might include the elderly because age is highly associated with cognitive decline.
Valentina Socci and her team conducted a second investigation I reviewed. They are from the University of L'Aquila, Italy, and work in the Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences3. This happened in 2017, and they evaluated the enhancement of human cognition with cacao flavonoids.
In this Italian study, the investigators analyzed data from 8 different studies that addressed the question of eating or drinking high-flavonol cacao products. The investigation covered and analyzed data from a wide range of patients, going from healthy young women to older sick adults. The equivalent amount of chocolate given was between 60 to 200 grams daily from 5 days to up to 3 months. The authors conclude that "the evidence accumulated so far suggests that cacao flavanols administration can be effective at sustaining cognitive performance, leading to improvements in measures of general cognition, attention, processing speed and memory."
One of the tests most commonly used to assess memory change in older people was the Mini-Mental questionnaire shown below.
Also, "acute administration of cocoa flavanols could result in immediate cognitive-enhancing effect, sustaining performance particularly in cognitively demanding conditions, including fatigue and sleep loss."
So, as a result of this review article, Socci and her team suggest that chocolate could be used to counteract cognitive decline resulting from aging. In the long term, a dark chocolate bar could be considered a health resource for older people to sustain their cognitive abilities, and for young people to prevent a decrease in their memory, attention, and concentration.
And last but not least, dark chocolate consumption proved to be beneficial through a randomized study4. Cacao flavonols enhanced spatial attention, which is to say that your ability to identify things quickly in a determined place, will be sharper than ever.
Forty-eight university healthy students participated in the trial. The authors gave special attention to dividing the assessment of different brain functions like spatial attention (reaction time) and temporal attention. Previous studies seemed to grouped these two brain features together. The participants could not consume any other stimulants or enhancer before starting the experiment, and these included caffeine, other sources of flavonols, theobromine, alcohol, teas, or supplements. They gave the "chocolate" as a cacao drink and measured the attention two (2) hours after providing the study "chocolate drink." Like in many other well-designed studies, they compared results after giving placebo (nothing), low dose cacao, and high-dose. They measured the students' cognitive function and attention before giving any investigational drink… this is called the baseline.
The researchers demonstrated a benefit of cacao-flavonol drink, in low- or high-dose in regards to spatial attention when compared to baseline and nothing. This means that the students were able to prioritize visual information received better when they had the chocolate drink, better focus, and concentration! I want to highlight the low amount of calories in the nutritional composition of the cacao beverage used.
After reviewing three (3) of the most recent medical studies that investigate dark chocolate nutrition and benefits to the human cognitive function, and my experience as a clinician specialized in endocrinology, I would like to recommend that:
It is reasonable to consume a daily amount of cacao-sourced flavonols. Do you need a hint?... DARK CHOCOLATE. How much should you eat a day? These studies do not provide a final answer to this question, but it is reasonable to suggest 40 to 60 grams of chocolate.
It is essential to add that the researchers in these studies received funding for the studies from their academic institutions and not from the cacao or chocolate world. I also want to highlight that it did not read a sentence in these papers of any harm to the human brain by consuming the cacao or chocolate amounts considered in the research. This is important because even if you don't receive this particular health benefit, at least you can enjoy the pleasure of the bean-to-bar chocolate experience. You will enjoy life knowing that it will be no harm to your brain.
Now, all the chocolate we taste, and "vet" have these benefits in mind. We are always looking to have and add high % chocolate bars, or products with similar benefits. Consider our dark chocolate collection, and especially the Craft Chocolate Membership, which will give you a consistent supply of what you need.
Ramon E. Martinez
Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst
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