I’ll take pretty much any excuse to eat chocolate. Hell, I was feeling a little chilly and sluggish before I started writing this, so I’m drinking a hot chocolate as we speak. Luckily for me – and you – scientists at Northern Arizona University have given us yet another reason to indulge: it can actually help you pay attention.
A new study conducted at NAU is the first to observe the effects of chocolate on the characteristics of the brain responsible for attention span. It is also the first study of chocolate to use electroencephalography (EEG), which takes images of the brain to measure brain activity while it is performing a cognitive task. The study looked at 122 people and examined the effects of eating chocolate that was 60% cacao (so dark chocolate, not milk chocolate). The findings were exactly what us choco-holics wished for: the brains of participants who ate the dark chocolate were more alert and attentive after consumption than those who did not get to enjoy the tasty treat.
Dr. Larry Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at Northern Arizona University, headed the study and said , “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.” So that means I can eat as much dark chocolate as I want and not count the calories since it’s healthy, right?
And that’s not the only good news: the study also found lowered blood pressure of the chocolate eaters whose sample included L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. Dr. Stevens has high hopes for what the results of the study mean. “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.” And given that the study was sponsored by Hershey, I expect you can see cacao/L-theanine bars on the shelves any day now.
So what does this mean for you? Personally, I plan to convince my boss that in order for anyone to actually pay attention in those 3 p.m. meetings he insists upon scheduling, we’re going to need to up the office food budget to include a never-ending supply of dark chocolate. Because you can’t argue with science..
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