Chocolate’s debut as an every day, every meal companion means its more than just a candy or a sweet flavor inclusion in ice creams and cakes; chocolate is a sweet topping on cereals, turning breakfast into dessert, it’s a healthy and decadent ingredient boost in heart-healthy bars and a beloved inclusion in everyday snack bars boasting a clean label.
Results from a new study published in NeuroRegulation further support chocolate’s heart-healthy role, but they also point to an improvement in attention, which could show promise for the energy category.
The study’s purpose was to examine the effects of consuming chocolate on electroencephalograph (EEG) frequencies and localization and on blood pressure. Across six conditions, 122 participants consumed either higher (60 percent) cacao chocolate, low (0 percent) cacao chocolate, higher cacao chocolate + L-theanine, high-sugar water, low-sugar water or water. EEGs, blood pressure and mood were measured before and after a 60-minute digestion period. These measurements indicated a decrease in frontal, parietal and temporal theta and an increase in occipital beta EEG following the consumption of a 60-percent cacao confection compared with control conditions. Diastolic blood pressure increased with the consumption of higher cacao chocolate when compared to water alone and to higher cacao chocolate + L-theanine. Diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased following consumption of higher cacao + L-theanine chocolate, averaging 4 to 8 mmHg.
So what’s it all mean? According to the researchers these results suggests an acute stimulating effect of cacao on the human brain and vasoconstrictive effects on peripheral vasculature, the latter of which appear to be offset by an L-theanine additive. This is the first known study to investigate acute EEG effects of consuming chocolate and suggests a potential attention-enhancing effect.