There are plenty of studies that get shared online, giving us reasons to avoid certain products - food or otherwise - to keep our bodies healthy. It can get a little confusing, as most food we eat has positive as well as negative effects on us - one of the reasons that a balanced diet is important, rather than scoffing too much of one particular food because you heard it was healthy.
Amidst all these competing theories, however, comes a rather comforting one. Apparently, eating chocolate could greatly improve your brain function, as long as you're eating the dark variety. Either way, if you've got a sweet tooth, this is cause for some serious celebration.
Two studies run by scientists at Loma Linda University gave us the good news, with the research conducted at the university's School of Allied Health Professions. Using EEGs (electroencephalograms) to measure brain activity, the researchers fed five people 48 grams of chocolate that was 70 percent cacao, and came away with some interesting results.
In the first study, an experimental trial, researchers found that chocolate could boost the immune system by "upregulating" pathways involved in T-cell activation, as well as the genes involved in sensory perception and neural signalling. The second study showed an "enhanced neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain benefits" - meaning it could improve memory and learning abilities.
Dr. Lee S. Berk, the associate dean of research affairs for Loma Linda’s School of Allied Health Professions, as well as the principal investigator for both studies, said:
"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. This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. 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."
There are a lot of reasons behind why dark chocolate can be good for you. Flavonoids, found in cacao, are powerful antioxidants that are also anti-inflammatory. These elements protect the human brain and provide cardiovascular benefits, according to numerous other studies. But this doesn't mean that we should overdose on the sweet stuff.
"Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems," Dr. Elizabeth Mostofsky, an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, told Medical Daily. "But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice."
There are other ways you can increase brain function, through cutting down on alcohol or exercising more. While those are definitely habits we should all get into, they're nowhere near as fun as eating chocolate, are they? Switch out milk chocolate for some dark, and you're good to go.