Chocolate and the Brain

Chocolate is amazing! It tastes good with almost anything you add to it and it satisfies your sweet tooth when you’re craving something delicious. We can’t imagine a world without chocolate, and the good news is that it’s actually healthy for us!

Yeah, you read that right – healthy. But you must be thinking how? Read on to find out how chocolate affects your brain:

brain1Better-working brain

A study by Harvard researchers has demonstrated that if a person drinks two cups of hot chocolate each day for a month (or 30 days), they’d have improved blood flow to their brain. But they also found that the elderly people involved in the study had better memory scores on thinking skill tests. Better blood flow to the brain and thinking skills are linked because of something they call “neurovascular coupling.”

So as the brain needs more energy to complete certain tasks, it needs more blood flow to do it. In this study, participants could only drink hot cocoa and researchers found that elderly patients who had impaired blood flow saw an improvement in blood flow by 8.3% during the month-long study.

Pleasure-inducing chemicals

Have you ever been sad and then had a bite of a chocolate bar and automatically felt your mood boost? Chances are you have and that’s because chocolate actually causes your brain to release pleasure-inducing chemicals (endorphins) that make you feel good. It’s called an “eater’s high” and it’s why chocolate has become a comfort food by many when they’re sad or stressed. Just one bit of a piece of chocolate and they’ll feel better!

Some researchers also believe that chocolate contains the same kinds of substances that can mimic the effects of marijuana, which is why it’s so addicting and can boost one’s pleasure when they eat it.

 

But chocolate not only affects our brain in a positive way, but also our entire body. Dark chocolate in particular has many health benefits. For starters, it has cardiovascular benefits and can actually reduce one’s risk of heart failure. A square of dark chocolate a day is also known to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a stroke and heart attack by as much as 39%. This is because dark chocolate is filled with antioxidant compounds called flavonoid, that actually increase a person’s flexibility in their arteries and veins so that blood can flow better.

And believe it or not, but dark chocolate is also great for diabetes prevention. An Italian study that had participants eat dark chocolate once a day for 15 days straight and people in the study saw their insulin resistance decrease by nearly 50%. That’s because chocolate’s flavonoids can increase nitric oxide production, which helps with insulin sensitivity.

If you’ve been feeling stressed lately, eat some dark chocolate! Swiss researchers found discovered that anxious people’s stress hormone levels decreased significantly if they hate some dark chocolate every day for two weeks.

So there you have it…the positive effects of chocolate on your brain and body, so don’t feel bad when you indulge in some the next time you’re craving it.

To find out more about the studies mentioned in this article, please see:
http://www.news-medical.net/news/2007/02/19/21998.aspx
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/benefits-of-chocolate

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