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Boosting Brain Power with Chocolate

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This is a review of two articles on the subject of “chocolate and the brain”, published on ScienceDaily and on MedicalNewsToday.

“Boosting Brain Power – with Chocolate“
an article published on ScienceDaily.

According to the article “Boosting Brain Power – with Chocolate“ recently published by  ScienceDaily:  “Cocoa or dark chocolate may improve blood flow.  It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine.  There is considerable evidence that cocoa can provide powerful health benefits, being especially protective against heart disease.”

“Eating chocolate could help to sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills, a University of Nottingham expert has found.  A study led by Professor Ian Macdonald found that consumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols – a key ingredient of dark chocolate – boosts flow to key areas of the brain.”


Eating chocolate could help to sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills, a University of Nottingham expert has found.

Boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain
A study led by Professor Ian Macdonald found that consumption of a cocoa drink rich in flavanols — a key ingredient of dark chocolate — boosts blood flow to key areas of the brain for two to three hours.

Increased blood flow to these areas of the brain may help increase performance in specific tasks, as well as boost general alertness over a short period of time.


Cocoa flavanols found in chocolate enhance brain function and help maintain good cardiovascular health

The findings, unveiled at one of the biggest scientific conferences in America, also raise the prospect of ingredients in chocolate being used to treat vascular impairment (including dementia and strokes),  thus maintaining good cardiovascular health.

The study also suggests that the cocoa flavanols found in chocolate could be useful in enhancing brain function for people fighting fatigue, sleep deprivation, and even the effects of ageing.


Cocoa flavanols dilate cerebral blood vessels, bringing more oxygen to key areas of the brain
Ian Macdonald, professor of metabolic physiology at The University of Nottingham, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect increased activity in specific areas of the brain in individuals who had consumed a single drink of flavanol-rich cocoa. This increased activity was linked to a definite dilation of cerebral blood vessels.  Thus more blood — and therefore more oxygen — was  able to reach key areas of the brain.


Flavanols found in red wine, green tea and blueberries as well as cocoa
Flavanols are not only found in chocolate with a high cocoa content — they are also present in other substances such as red wine, green tea and blueberries.


Cocoa Flavanoids increased grey matter flow for two to three hours after ingestion
Professor Macdonald stated: “Acute consumption of this particular flavanol-rich cocoa beverage was associated with increased grey matter flow for two to three hours… The effects of consuming this particular beverage on cerebral blood flow raises the possibility that certain food ingredients may be beneficial in increasing brain blood flow and enhancing brain function, in situations where individuals are cognitively impaired such as by fatigue, sleep deprivation, or possibly ageing”.


Findings presented at the American Association for the Advancement of  Science (AAAS)
Ian Macdonald presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the biggest annual gatherings of scientists from all over the world.  The AAAS, founded in 1848, is the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the prestigious international journal Science. Its annual conference draws up to 10,000 attendees.


Health Benefits and Risks of Chocolate
According to the article “Health Benefits and Risks of Chocolate”,  published by  Medical News Today:

No-Guilt Chocolate
The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, a number of health benefits may be associated with this delicious treat.


Health benefits of chocolate
According to a review in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine,  scientists have discovered that cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, contains biologically active phenolic compounds.

This has changed people’s views on chocolate, and it has stimulated research into how it might impact aging, and conditions such as oxidative stressblood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis.


Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits
The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are. Eating chocolate may have the following benefits:

  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • preventing cognitive decline
  • reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems


Hot chocolate could help reduce cognitive decline
Scientists at Harvard Medical School (Lead author: Farzaneh A. Sorond) have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.  They found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.

The author states:  “As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Results of a lab experiment, published in 2014, indicated that a cocoa extract, called lavado, might reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This extract could help slow symptoms such as cognitive decline.


I hope you have enjoyed my two reviewed articles.  Personally, I was delighted to hear that dark chocolate is good for the brain, and I eat a few pieces of it every day.


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Comments (2) on "Boosting Brain Power with Chocolate"

  1. I have been eating at least one piece of 85%-95% dark chocolate every day for a few months and now I’m a genius! Haha!

    But seriously, I have been having it for seven months now, and that coupled with a little more exercise and a healthier diet seems to have brought my (usually high) blood pressure down to normal levels. I had read several articles regarding the benefits of dark chocolate and had decided to give it a go.

    I’m not sure if it has affected my brain power, but I seem to be doing okay!

    1. So glad to hear that, Chris!   I’m glad your blood pressure has stabilized at the same time as you becoming a “genius”!  Isn’t it great that such a sweet treat is also good for us?

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