Dark chocolate with high concentrations of cacao can have positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity, according to two new studies.
The research presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego suggests chocolate with a minimum of 70% cacao can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health.
Lee Berk, main investigator on the studies and an associate dean of research affairs at Loma Linda University's School of Allied Health Professions, said participants were given a 48-gram bar of dark chocolate at the beginning of one experiment and then ate a piece of dark chocolate every two hours they were awake, for several days.
Blood tests revealed the chocolate influenced gene activity, increased anti-inflammatory agents and increased infection-fighting cells, Berk said. Further research by Berk's team examined how brain activity reacted to dark chocolate consumption. Gamma waves recorded by an electroencephalogram (EEG) suggested the treat could positively impact brain function, such as cognitive function and creativity, even two hours after eating it.
The two studies included a total of 10 participants and results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal for scrutiny.
Berk said his team's next step is to research how much dark chocolate someone should eat to affect brain function. He confesses he eats some every day.
The research was funded by the university and is not affiliated with any chocolate companies, Berk said.