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Chocolate is an all year round necessity (I know for me it is) and also in Christmas, with chocolate advent calendars, chocolate coins etc... so that's the topic for today's post.  A study has shown that chocolate can increase brain characteristics of attention and significantly affect blood pressure levels. Over the years, chocolate has been known as a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, in the long run, but chocolate also contains some powerful stimulants. Researchers wanted to investigate if people who consume chocolate would see an immediate stimulant effect -preventing the sleepy feeling you get in the afternoon (whether at school or work).

Stevens and his team tested their theory on with 122 participants between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. The researchers examined the EEG levels and blood pressure effects of consuming a 60 percent cacao confection compared with five control conditions.

The research, published in the journal NeuroRegulation and sponsored by the Hershey Company, is the first to examine the acute effects of chocolate on attentional characteristics of the brain and the first-ever study of chocolate consumption performed using electroencephalography, or EEG technology. EEG studies take images of the brain while it is performing a cognitive task and measure the brain activity.
The results for the participants who consumed the 60 percent cacao chocolate showed that the brain was more alert and attentive after consumption. Their blood pressure also increased for a short time. "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. 
Steves also stressed that this will not work with milk chocolate, there has to be a high cacao content in the chocolate for the stimulating effect to kick in. 
The participants who consumed the high-cacao content chocolate with L-theanine, researchers recorded an immediate drop in blood pressure. "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.
The researchers hope, that in the future, the results of this study will encourage manufacturers to investigate further and consider the health benefits of developing a chocolate bar made with high-cacao content and L-theanine. 
Making a chocolate bar that is healthy and also, blood pressure lowering is also beneficial for millions of hypertension patients around the world. They would be able to regulate they're blood pressure with chocolate and stay alert at the same time and probably won't need vasodilating drugs.
  1. 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 ChocolateNeuro Regulation, 2015 [link]