Posted on: November 26, 2019 at 5:31 pm
Last updated: July 12, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Dark chocolate “sunbutter” cups, 2-ingredient chocolate mousse, dark chocolate avocado blueberry muffins. So many recipes, so little time! But the good news for you fellow chocolate-fiends is that your cocoa obsession could have some positive health effects on your brain.

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Chocolate Makes You Smart?

A 2016 study published in the journal Appetite found a link between regular chocolate eating and boosted cognitive performance.

After studying 968 adults with various cognitive tests, researchers found that those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better on memory, reasoning, attention, and overall cognitive performance tests.

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Georgina E. Crichton, who led the research study, suggested the results they saw might be coming from the cocoa flavanols and methylxanthines found in chocolate.

Cocoa Flavanols & Methylxanthines

Think it’s too sweet to be true?

Previous studies have also pointed to the brain-boosting benefits of cocoa flavanols. For instance, a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at ninety seniors with healthy cognition. The seniors were split into three groups: some were given a low dose of cocoa flavanols every day (48mg), some a medium dose (520mg), and some a high dose (993mg).

Researchers found that the seniors who were taking medium to high doses of cocoa flavanols showed noticeable improvements on memory tests, executive function tests, and attention tests.

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Just two years earlier, that same group of researchers had published another study that suggested cocoa flavanols could have a small reversing effect on thinking problems for seniors who suffered cognitive impairment!

But before you start buying stock in Hershey’s and Cadbury, Heidi Godman, Executive Editor of Harvard Health Letter advises paying attention to where you’re getting your cocoa flavanols from. “The amount of cocoa used in chocolate varies by manufacturer. And flavanols are often destroyed in the production of chocolate. Dark chocolate has more cocoa and more flavanols than milk chocolate,” she says. (1)

“The best way of getting cocoa flavanols is through cocoa powder that is as natural as possible and has not been processed through the Dutch method, which reduces the content of flavanols,” Godman continues. (1)

Methylxanthines, meanwhile, are alkaloids that are naturally occurring (they’re also used in prescription drugs). The two most common methylxanthines in chocolate are caffeine and theobromine. (2)

While cocoa beans don’t have as much caffeine as coffee beans do, you can still get a nice wake-me-up from enjoying some natural chocolate. On the other hand, theobromine has been associated with a better-quality sleep. (2) Often you’ll find certain checks and balances in nature like this, not all that unlike over-so-relaxing L-theanine found alongside caffeine in green tea.

Chocolate and Your Mood

Eating the right type of chocolate may else help to protect against mood disorders. A study published in the Depression & Anxiety journal this summer (July, 2019) suggested that while eating chocolate, in general, didn’t have any statistically significant effects, eating dark chocolate seemed to have a preventative effect for depression.

“[I]ndividuals who reported any dark chocolate consumption had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who did not report any chocolate consumption,” said researchers.

Of course, it could also be the case that those who suffer from depression are less interested in eating chocolate. Without further study, it’s hard to know for sure. Either way, nobody’s making the claim that chocolate is a cure-all.

Nevertheless, it sure is a nice treat!

Read Next: No-bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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Maria Sykes
Team Writer
Marie Sykes is an Ontario based writer with a background in research and a love for holistic wellness. She's especially interested in boosting awareness for women's health issues. Once a shunner of gyms, Marie has found an appreciation for weight training and HIIT circuits. She enjoys trying cuisine from all over the world, and she also enjoys not caring two cents what other people think her body should look like.

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