Dark chocolate has numerous antioxidants and it has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study of nearly 21,000 people published in the British Cardiovascular Journal Heart found that higher chocolate intake, compared to lower chocolate consumption, was associated with significantly lower coronary heart disease risk and stroke.
Dark chocolate is also rich in flavanols, and that may cause a neuroprotective effect. Italian researchers found that participants experienced enhancements in working memory performance and visual information processing after consuming cocoa flavanols. Regular consumption of cocoa flavanols might be effective in improving cognitive function. Ninety elderly individuals with Mild Cognitive Impairment consumed a cocoa flavanol drink daily for 8 weeks. The high flavanol participants demonstrated improved verbal fluency, reduced time to take the cognitive tests, improvement in insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure than the low flavanol group.
Dark chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator implicated in mood regulation. Data from 13,626 study participants who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported eating no chocolate at all. This impact was not found for milk chocolate consumption.
Takeaway: Dark chocolate is a treat that can provide brain and body benefits.
Kwok CS, Boekholdt SM, Lentjes MAH, et al. Habitual Chocolate Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease among Healthy Men and Women. Heart 2015;101:1279–1287, Mar 1, 2018, https://heart.bmj.com/content/101/16/1279.
Valentina Socci, Daniela Tempesta, Giovambattista Desideri, Luigi De Gennaro and Michele Ferrara , Enhancing Human Cognition with Cocoa Flavonoids, Frontiers in Nutrition, May 16 2017, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2017.00019/full.
Sarah E. Jackson, Lee Smith, Joseph Firth, Igor Grabovac, Pinar Soysal, Ai Koyanagi, Liang Hu, Brendon Stubbs, Jacopo Demurtas, Nicola Veronese, Xiangzhu Zhu, Lin Yang , Is there a Relationship between Chocolate Consumption and Symptoms of Depression? A Cross‐Sectional Survey of 13,626 US Adults, Depression and Anxiety, July 29, 2019, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/da.22950.
Giovambattista Desideri, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Davide Grassi, Stefano Necozione, Lorenzo Ghiadoni, Daniela Mastroiacovo, Angelo Raffaele, Livia Ferri, Raffaella Bocale, Maria Carmela Lechiara, Carmine Marini, and Claudio Ferri, Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance Through Cocoa Flavanol Consumption in Elderly Subjects With Mild Cognitive Impairment, 14 Aug 2012, Hypertension. 2012;60:794–801, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.193060?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed