While there are many reasons to bite into a piece of rich, dark chocolate, new scientific research is providing a few more excuses to indulge in the sweet treat. Two new studies prove that eating dark chocolate offers a variety of health benefits, including improving memory, immunity, and mood, and fighting stress and inflammation. Both were led by Lee S. Berk, DrPH, of Loma Linda University and examined the effect of dark chocolate with a 70% concentration of cacao on human participants.
The first looked into the impact of dark chocolate consumption on the immune system, focusing on inflammation. Because dark chocolate contains antioxidants, it can act as an anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers found that cacao consumption could benefit cellular immune response and the genes involved in sending signals to the brain. This also suggests that dark chocolate could support the brain's ability to learn new skills.
The second study further analyzed how dark chocolate consumption impacts brain health, including learning, memory, recall, and mindfulness. Researchers examined electrical responses in the brain 30 minutes and 120 minutes after participants ate 48 grams of dark chocolate, finding that the dessert enhanced neuroplasticity, benefitting behavioral and cognitive brain health.
It's not news that dark chocolate contains good-for-you antioxidants, but these studies are the first to discover that high concentrations of cacao found in dark chocolate can support cognitive, endocrine, and cardiovascular health. "For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content—the more sugar, the happier we are," Berk says. "These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects."
While more research is required to come to determine the significance of these findings, it seems as though a bit of dark chocolate could really be good for you. It may boost your immune system thanks to anti-inflammatory properties, benefit your mood, and keep your brain sharp.