Italian researchers recently published the largest analysis ever of how eating chocolate affects the brain. It looked at both the short-term effects (what happens to your brain in the minutes after eat chocolate) and the long-term effects (what happens when you eat chocolate daily for years).
When the study was over, the results were so convincing they led scientists to offer this advice: “Eat some dark chocolate every day.”1
Here’s what the researchers at the University of L’Aquila found:
- Your memory gets a quick boost: Within hours, people who ate dark chocolate had better working memory. They improved their scores on memory tests. And they were able to follow verbal instructions more accurately.
- You can handle lack of sleep better: After a night of forced sleep deprivation, eating chocolate counteracted the negative cognitive effects. Chocolate eaters were able to overcome the slower brain processing, poor recall, and lack of verbal fluency that normally comes with a bad night’s sleep.
- Seniors benefit the most: The memory improvement caused by chocolate is greatest in older people with mild cognitive impairment. Although people of all ages see mental benefits, seniors improve their memory scores the most.
Researchers Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L’Aquila co-authored the review. They said: “This result suggests the potential of (chocolate) to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance.”2
They added that cocoa flavanols in chocolate “increase cerebral blood volume” in the brain. This is especially true in the hippocampus. This is the brain structure thought to be crucial for memory.3
The hippocampus “is particularly affected by aging and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans,” researchers said.
Their review study was published on the science research website Frontiers in Nutrition.4
Best Chocolate for Brain Health
Chocolate is full of health-enhancing flavonoids, antioxidants, and polyphenols. But we are talking about only dark chocolate. Not white or milk chocolate, which don’t contain many healthy flavanols. They are also often loaded with sugar and chemical additives.
Previous studies have found that eating about an ounce of dark chocolate a day has health benefits that go far beyond your brain.5
It prevents heart disease: A study of almost 5,000 residents of Scotland found that those who ate dark chocolate more than five times a week lowered their risk for heart disease by 42%.
It lowers inflammation: Inflammation can lead to some nasty problems. These can include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. An Italian study shows that people who ate dark chocolate every three days had an average of 27% lower levels of C-reactive protein. This is a marker of inflammation.
It lowers stress: Swiss researchers found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduces cortisol levels. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, can mess with healthy hormone function. It also increases inflammation and can raise blood pressure.
To reap the rewards, remember to eat chocolate that’s organic and at least 70% cocoa. The higher the cocoa content, the more flavonoids it has…and the more the benefit you get.
And watch out for additives. Some chocolates contain lead or cadmium. These are known neurotoxins.
We recommend two dark chocolate brands: Ghirardelli Midnight Reverie and Lindt Excellence A Touch of Salt. Tests show they are free of heavy metals. Click here for a complete list of the best and worst chocolates.
Editor’s Note: If you’re worried about staying mentally sharp, there’s something else you should know… The study results on this natural herb extract are so promising, Big Pharma is trying to turn it into a drug. Get all the details here.