When I was growing up my elementary school teachers always told me to eat a piece of chocolate before a standardized exam. I never understood why but it always gave me a good excuse to eat a piece of chocolate early in the morning. Ten years later I am really intrigued by how eating chocolate can improve your brain’s ability to process things. Chocolate to me was always a nice little treat to snack on.
Chocolate contains natural chemicals called Flavonoids. These chemicals provide many health benefits. Chocolate contains flavanols and flavonols. Flavanols are beneficial in lowering blood pressure and keeping blood vessels healthy. These chemicals also contain anti-axtiodants that help remove damaging agents from the body. Dark Chocolate is known to have a higher percentage of flavonoids compared to light chocolates.
In addition studies have shown that eating chocolate can improve cognitive functions like memory. It is relatively normal for someones memory to deteriorate as they get older. This should not be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. For many adults recalling facts can become difficult while recognition seems to be easier. Recall consist of remembering a fact and mentally having to retrieve the information from your memory. Recognition involves comparing things and associating information in your memory. Recognition does not involve as much effort. A study done by Columbia University Medical Students has shown that dietary changes can improve memory that declines as a person ages. Before this study there had only seen to be a correlational relationship between eating chocolate and improved cognitive functions. In this study Dr. Scott A. Small wanted to test whether or not cocoa flavanols could help the part of the brain that deals with memory. Dr. Small used a drink that contained cocoa flavanols to test his hypothesis. The sample group of 37 volunteers in the same age range were randomly allocated into the control and experimental group. A randomized control experiment helps to eliminate confounding variables. The control group received a drink with a low concentration of cocoa flavanols while the experimental group received a drink with high concentrations. Different images were taken of the participant’s brains before and after the study. Memory test were also given before and after to allow for comparison. The results showed that the participants that received the highly concentrated drink preformed much better and the brain images showed the dentate gyrus improving with functioning. The dentate gyrus is the area of the brain affected by normal age related memory decline. The study was done on a small scale but there is compelling evidence that shows the casual relationship between consumption of cocoa flavanols and improvement in memory.
Chocolate consumption has also been linked to providing benefits to the heart. Multiple studies have been conducted looking deeper into this linkage. Scientists from the University of Cambridge sought out to analyze the results of the multiple studies done. From all of the studies they analyzed five of the studies showed a positive correlation between chocolate consumption and heart health. With high chocolate consumption many things like stroke were reduced. These experiments can sometimes be difficult to conduct because with the consumption of chocolate there are many other things to take account of. There are high calorie and sugar levels with eating chocolate. Eating high amounts of chocolate is never too safe. More studies in this realm could be conducted with caution to see if there is indeed a casual relationship between the two.
Chocolate consumption has been linked to both improved memory and heart health. But these studies do not promote the overconsumption of chocolate which can result in negative effects in different areas. A piece of chocolate a day might be the perfect amount to stimulate your brain and to keep your heart healthy.