Forget Coffee, Dark Chocolate Boosts Brain Alertness And Attention Span

Everybody knows when it comes to waking up, nothing works quite as well as a big ol' cup of Joe.

But if you're prone to the jitters -- or simply don't want to overload your system with caffeine -- it can be challenging to find an alternative that perks you up in a similar manner.

Enter: dark chocolate.

Researchers from Northen Arizona University recently conducted a study evaluating the effects of dark chocolate consumption.

According to the study's lead author, Larry Stevens, dark chocolate was found to "[activate] the brain in a really special way."

He added,

It can increase brain characteristics of attention, and it also significantly affects blood pressure levels.

Funded by The Hershey Company, the study split 122 participants, aged 18-25, into two groups. One group was fed dark chocolate high in cacao while the other participants were fed placebos. After each group ate the chocolate, researchers measured the participants' brain activity via EEG as they performed a range of cognitive tasks.

After each group ate the chocolate, researchers measured the participants' brain activity via EEG as they performed a range of cognitive tasks.

Results indicated those who consumed the high-cacao chocolate had better attention spans, increased feelings of peace and, unexpectedly, lower blood pressures than the placebo group.

The researchers hypothesized the effect on blood pressure is due to L-theanine, a calming agent and amino acid found in cacao. They tested -- and proved -- the theory by adding additional L-theanine to a test batch and studying its effect on the participants.

Stevens said,

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.

The researchers hope to introduce a chocolate infused with this amino acid to the mass market in the future. But until that's available, they recommend snacking on chocolate with at least 60 percent cacao in order to reap the full cardiovascular and mental benefits.

Citations: Dark Chocolate Found To Lengthen Attention Span And Improve Brain Alertness (Medical Daily )