“Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way,” said Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at NAU. “It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.”
The research team measured brain activity by using electroencephalography, an imaging technique. EEG studies take images of the brain while it is performing a cognitive task and measure the brain activity.
Prior studies have associated chocolate and lowered blood pressure as it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure in the long run acting as a vasodilator and contains powerful stimulants. The research team consisted of 122 participants between the ages of 18-25 years old and the research team investigated the impact of a 60% cacao confection under 5 control conditions. The results reflect that the brain was more alert and attentive after consumption and that blood pressure increases for a short while.
“A lot of us in the afternoon get a little fuzzy and can’t pay attention, particularly students, so we could have a higher cacao content chocolate bar and it would increase attention,” Stevens said.
The combination of cacao chocolate and L-theanine which acts as an amino acid in tea acts as a relaxant. “L-theanine is a really fascinating product that lowers blood pressure and produces what we call alpha waves in the brain that are very calm and peaceful,” Stevens said. “We thought that if chocolate acutely elevates blood pressure, and L-theanine lowers blood pressure, then maybe the L-theanine would counteract the short-term hypertensive effects of chocolate.” “It’s remarkable. 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,” Stevens said.
“People don’t generally eat chocolate and think it’s going to be healthy for them,” Stevens said. He added that there is a possibility the millions of hypertension patients in the country could eat a bar of this heart healthy chocolate every afternoon and their blood pressure would drop into the normal range, and they would be more alert and attentive.
Michelle Montopoli, Larry C Stevens, Constance Smith, George Montopoli, Stephanie Passino, Somer Brown, Lena Camou, Katie Carson, Shannon Maaske, Kathleen Knights, William Gibson, Joyce Wu. The Acute Electrocortical and Blood Pressure Effects of Chocolate. Neuro Regulation, 2015