Dark chocolate 'reduces stress and inflammation'

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Participants were given an EEG (brain scan) thirty minutes after consuming 48 grams of dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate improves mood, memory and reduces stress.

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The health benefits of dark chocolate are well known, the cacao within it being a bountiful source of antioxidants that can protect against aging and disease. The findings of two separate studies have demonstrated that eating dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao can reduce stress and inflammation while boosting mood, memory, immunity, and brain power.

"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content - the more sugar, the happier we are", said lead investigator Lee S. Berk, from Loma Linda University in California, US. According to the finding's presenters, the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, though more research still needs to be done to back up these claims.

"The findings reported suggest that a single dose of dark chocolate improves visibility of small, low-contrast targets within 2 hours compared with milk chocolate, but the duration of this difference and clinical relevance remains uncertain", the authors wrote.

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It's the first study conducted in humans that proves chocolate can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health. The researchers also found the potential link of dark chocolates with increased brain plasticity.

This pilot feasibility experimental trial examined the impact of 70 percent cacao chocolate consumption on human immune and dendritic cell gene expression, with focus on pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. What's more, cocoa concentrations must be high for the many health benefits of the chocolate to kick in.

The researchers found that cacao consumption boosted the stimulation of intracellular signaling pathways involved in T-cell activation and cellular immune response.

70% cacao enhances neuroplasticity and brain capacity.

Further research will be conducted to fully understand cacao's effects on the immune system, Berk said, but new studies are now underway to see how varying levels change the cause-and-effect relationship of how chocolate interacts with the brain.

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