Chocolate is Good for The Brain

Hot cocoa boosts brain health. Cup of hot chocolate in a red cup.

We’ll drink to this: according to research, hot chocolate makes us smarter and faster thinkers. A study finds drinking cocoa is not just a popular choice, but it may also be a “smart” choice as well. A team at the University of Birmingham discovered that people given a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols were able to complete cognitive tasks more efficiently than when drinking a non-flavanol drink.

The study examined 18 healthy men between 18 and 40 years old. The participants underwent a standard procedure to challenge the brain’s circulation that involved breathing 5% carbon dioxide – about 100 times the normal concentration found in the air. This produces an effect called hypercapnia. The men were subjected to a non-invasive method which uses light to see changes in the blood oxygenation levels. The researchers tracked how the group responded to the carbon dioxide after drinking flavanols. Each man received these tests twice, before and after having their cocoa.

The study revealed that the participants drinking a flavanol-enriched beverage had the highest levels of blood oxygenation after experiencing hypercapnia. The cognitive exams revealed flavanol-enriched cocoa helped people perform better in mental challenges. The study found improvements in speed and accuracy when flavanol-enriched drinks were consumed over regular cocoa.

So, sit back, relax, and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. But for a fun note: as for the tiny, little marshmallows that so many of us dump into our hot chocolate, they do not factor into the health benefit.

Socci V, Tempesta D, Desideri G, De Gennaro L, Ferrara M. Enhancing human cognition with cocoa flavonoids. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2017 May 16;4:19.

Can drinking cocoa make you smarter? [Internet]. [cited 21021, Dec 02]. Available from:

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