The afternoon has rolled around, and you have been hard at work since the early morning. You feel tired, unfocused and badly in need of a pick-me-up. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee, grab a bar of dark chocolate, as scientists have found it is a great antidote for the midday slump.
Researchers at Northern Arizona University discovered that dark chocolate can boost attention levels and alertness as well as lower blood pressure. The thing to remember is that the chocolate you eat needs to contain 60 percent cacao. Milk chocolate won’t produce the same benefits.
Chocolate Increased Concentration
The study published in NeuroRegulation evaluated the mental effects of chocolate on a group of 122 people between the ages of 18 and 25. Some members of the group were given dark chocolate, and others were given a placebo. The amount of chocolate consumed was 1 gram for each kilogram body weight, which for a 139-pound person is equivalent to nine squares of chocolate. The participants then underwent electroencephalography brain scans while they performed thinking and memory tasks. The research team found those who had eaten the chocolate containing 60 percent cacao were more alert and attentive than those in the placebo group.
“A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can’t pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention,” said lead author Larry Stevens.
Chocolate Lowered Blood Pressure
Chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds that dilate or widen blood vessels, an effect that causes blood pressure to decrease in the long run. Yet chocolate also contains caffeine, a stimulant that produces a short-term rise in blood pressure. The researchers noted the participants who ate the chocolate experienced an increase in blood pressure, so they wanted to design a chocolate bar that would provide the mental boost without this temporary adverse effect.
In one test, they made a chocolate bar that contained 60 percent cacao with the additional ingredient of L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea that produces relaxation. This proved to be the winning combination. Those who ate the new type of chocolate had an immediate reduction in blood pressure.
“L-theanine is a really fascinating product that lowers blood pressure and produces what we call alpha waves in the brain that are very calm and peaceful,” explains Stevens. “It’s remarkable. The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure and helps you pay attention.”
A chocolate product with this formula isn’t on the market yet, but Stevens hopes manufacturers will become interested in developing it. He believes if millions of hypertensive patients ate a bar of this chocolate every day, their blood pressure would drop into the normal range and they would enjoy a boost in alertness.
You don’t need to wait until this new product comes out to receive the benefits of dark chocolate. Other research suggests the food may reduce the risk of a heart attacks and stroke as well as help prevent obesity, diabetes and other maladies. Moreover, according to the latest study, it is a sweet way to banish that lethargy and mental fogginess that can descend on you in the afternoon.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.