Dark Chocolate Is The New Brain Food

Jul 9, 2015

It's official: dark chocolate is good for us! That's according to the first-ever chocolate study to measure brain waves. It was conducted by Larry Stevens, a clinical psychologist and professor at Northern Arizona University.

"Chocolate has a rich history," Stevens says. "It's associated with romance and sexual arousal, so with this history we thought, 'hmmm, let's look at what's in chocolate that could produce these kinds of effects'. Turns out there are a host of really interesting biochemical constituents in chocolate."

Stevens believes the higher the cacao content the greater the chance dark chocolate can help us focus our attention. That's particularly true when we hit our mid-day slump. "Don't we all know what it feels like to have a big lunch and feel like taking a nap afterwards?" Stevens asks. "But we can't because we have to go back to work. Wouldn't it be nice if we had a tasty stimulant that we could take in the afternoon that could increase our arousal?"

Psychologist and NAU professor Dr. Larry Stevens
Credit KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

The study also suggests dark chocolate can help treat the foggy characteristics of Attention Deficit Disorder. And by adding the amino acid L-Theanine, Stevens says it can further lower blood pressure. "What we found," Stevens says, "was, indeed, not only remarkable but very statistically significant, and there was a lowering of blood pressure - diastolic and systolic - which dropped dramatically." Stevens adds, "Those decreases in blood pressure in the L-Theanine condition were equivalent to 1/2 or 1/3 the effects of any hypertensive medication."

Stevens says one of the applications of his study is that chocolate manufacturers - like Hershey's, who sponsored the study - could produce a candy bar with health benefits. "So, we would have heart-health and attention-enhancing chocolate," Stevens says, "truly a unique brain food."