Your Newest Reason to Eat Chocolate

Dark chocolate tied to improved focus, dark chocolate with L-theanine tied to lower blood pressure

Move over, coffee. There may be a new fatigue-fighting focus booster in town, and its name is chocolate.

A new study found that dark chocolate may battle fatigue. If that wasn't enough, chocolate combined with an amino acid called L-theanine may lower blood pressure, this study found.

Lead study author Larry Stevens, PhD, professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University, said in a press release that he eats a piece of high-cacao-content chocolate every afternoon to beat the midday slump.

“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way,” Dr. Stevens said in a press release. “It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”

But Dr. Stevens isn’t eating the average Hershey's bar. His chocolate pieces have a 60 percent cacao content — compared to the average 11 percent in a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.

For this study, which was funded by Hershey, Dr. Stevens and team studied 122 patients between the ages of 18 and 25.

This is the first study to address the attention-related characteristics of chocolate with electroencephalographic (EEG) technology. EEGs use brain images to measure brain activity during performance of a cognitive task.

In patients who ate 60 percent cacao chocolate, brain images suggested that they were more alert and attentive.

Dr. Stevens and team also studied the effects of an amino acid called L-theanine.

Patients who ate 60 percent cacao with added L-theanine — which is found in green tea and acts as a relaxant — showed an immediate drop in blood pressure.

“It’s remarkable,” Dr. Stevens said. “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.”

Consumers won’t find these heart-healthy chocolates on the market just yet, but Dr. Stevens said he is optimistic that the results will encourage manufacturers to investigate further.

“People don’t generally eat chocolate and think it’s going to be healthy for them,” Dr. Stevens said.

This study was published online May 8 in the journal NeuroRegulation.