Can Dark Chocolate Actually Improve Mental Health?

A 2012 study shows that places around the world where chocolate consumption is on the high par have the greatest number of Nobel Prize recipients. The study in question was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. There are pretty good chances that it could be a coincidence. However, the question still arises whether there is a link between intelligence and the consumption of chocolate. The answer to this could be “maybe,” and we will see how. The “maybe” comes from the fact that dark chocolate actually helps to improve mental health. Let’s see how.

Healthier Brain!

The brain is the control unit of our bodies. In order to keep it healthy and preserve and improve its functions, we need to use all the resources that are available. There are several diseases and conditions which have the potential to affect the average human as they age. The most common of these are ones that cause dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease. Since every human has to age, they should be taking certain measures to avoid any of these conditions as there are no effective treatments for dementia.

The most suitable road to take in order to avoid them is the road directed to you by the doctor. These could be exercising regularly, eating a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding smoking and drinking, maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure, etc. Brain exercises could also help, such as indulging in challenging math problems or puzzles. Moreover, a person can also move towards supplements that enhance the cognitive power of the brain. However, all of these are not long-term solutions.

The thing between the brain and chocolate!

Evidence analyzed in a review, published in the May 2017 edition of Frontiers in Nutrition, shows how flavanols that are present in dark chocolate are good for brain health and the functions it performs. Flavanols come from flavonoids and are plant-based substances. These have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in humans. The findings of the review concluded the following two important things:

The short-term consumption of dark chocolate, which contains flavanols, may be helpful for the brain. This came forward from the analysis of a 2011 study, which showed the effects of dark chocolate consumption in young adults. In two hours of dark chocolate consumption, with high flavanol content, the reaction time and memory of the young adults improved in comparison to adults who had eaten white chocolate contain lower flavanol content.

Long-term consumption of dark chocolate may also be beneficial. Another study (2014) analyzed in the review shows how adults in the age range of 50 to 69 who have been taking a cocoa supplement containing high flavanol content for around three months performed better on memory tests compared to those taking coca supplements with lower flavanol content.

As much as these results of the studies incline us to believe that dark chocolate actually improves mental health and brain functions, it is still not enough evidence for any solid conclusions. There are a number of similar studies that show there is no direct link between the consumption of dark chocolate and brain activity. Moreover, most of the studies conducted in this regard have a small population sample and hence cannot be generalized. There is also a chance of the placebo effect if the study objects know what they are being researched about.

Where else can you find flavanols?

Another link between dark chocolate and its effect on brain functions can be seen from the fact that flavanol is present in many vegetables and fruits. This shows why maintaining a healthy diet is so important to avoid conditions that decline the cognitive power of the brain. Due to the high flavanol content present in vegetables and fruits, a rich diet that contains both can prevent diseases such as dementia. However, still, a lot of research has to go in it before any solid claims can be made.

The bottom line

It cannot be concluded, therefore, that dark chocolate actually improves mental health. It could or it could not. Moreover, there are several differences in chocolates as some are high in sugar content, whereas some have more fats and calories. So, even if dark chocolate actually helps improve mental health, due to other contents in it such as sugar and fats, many doctors may not recommend it. Instead, other foods rich in flavanol will be proffered since it is flavanols which are playing an important role here.


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