Two studies presented at the 2018 Experimental Biology conference suggest that regular consumption of dark chocolate could boost brain and immune health. Although doctors have known about dark chocolate’s health benefits for awhile, these new studies are the first to look specifically at the brains and immune systems of human patients.
The main components in dark chocolate that give humans such incredible health benefits are a group of antioxidants known as flavonoids. According to this study, flavonoids are critical for reducing inflammation in the brain and heart, thus reducing pain and improving mood.
In the first study, researchers looked at how a 70 percent dark chocolate bar affects cells in the immune system. They found that a high portion of raw cacao significantly boosts T-cells, which in turn strengthens the body’s immune response.
The second study was more interested in how dark chocolate affects a person’s brain. Scientists used an electroencephalography (EEG) test to study the brainwaves of study participants 30 minutes and 2 hours after they ate 1.6 ounces of 70 percent dark chocolate. Data from this study shows that dark chocolate has a positive effect on boosting soothing gamma waves in the brain.
Interestingly, the sugar content in the chocolate bars played a smaller role in mood enhancement than the amount of raw cacao. Study authors say patients can experience the greatest health benefits from a bar of dark chocolate if the raw cacao level is 70 percent or higher. Ideally, the chocolate car should have 30 percent or less of a high-quality cane sugar.
Lee S. Berk, who teaches allied health studies at Loma Linda University, was the lead researcher on these projects. While Dr. Berk is encouraged by these findings, he believes there needs to be more research to better understand how raw cacao enhances cognition and immunity.
This year’s Experimental Biology gathering took place at the San Diego Convention Center between April 21st and 25th.