Dark Chocolate Increases Attention

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RN 

As the afternoon sets in, many of us find it becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate and work attentively.

Can chocolate help? A new study suggests the answer is yes. Researchers found that eating dark chocolate may help to increase alertness.

The results of the study were published in the journal NeuroRegulation.

Chocolate + Theanine = A Winning Combo for Staying Alert

Previous studies show chocolate can change the chemical activity of our brains. It’s particularly known for raising dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with focus, pleasure, and motivation.

For the current study, researchers recruited 122 young adults between the age of 18 and 25. They were given 60% dark cocoa chocolate or one of the following five controls: low (0%) cacao chocolate, higher cacao chocolate + L-theanine, high sugar water, low sugar water, or water.

An EEG, a test which measures brain activity, was administered to assess levels of alertness while participants were undergoing mental activities. Blood pressure levels and mood were assessed prior to the experiment and 60 minutes afterwards.

According to the results of the study, eating the 60% chocolate heightened alertness and slightly increased blood pressure levels for a short period of time. Mood was not significantly affected.1

One of the controls, a combination of chocolate and L-theanine (an amino acid from green tea) lowered blood pressure levels between four to eight points compared to the groups taking the dark chocolate.

The combination of L-theanine and chocolate may be a better choice than chocolate alone, since it prevented the blood pressure rise associated with chocolate consumption.

Previous research indicates that L-theanine increases the production of alpha waves, brain waves that promote alert relaxation.

More Tips on Avoiding the Afternoon Slump

If you’re a common prey to the afternoon slump, evaluate your sleeping or eating habits. Eating a heavy meal towards lunch or not getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep may hamper your ability to stay awake and attentive in the afternoon.

Avoiding sugar and consuming high protein snacks may help. The amino acids in protein are the precursors to stimulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine.

If you’re looking for additional nutrient suggestions, consider supplementing with L-tyrosine, rhodiola, and ginkgo. All may help to improve alertness, focus, and concentration.

References:

1. Available at: http://www.neuroregulation.org/article/view/14652. Accessed June 2, 2015.

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