Overcome the mid-morning energy low with a piece or two of dark chocolate, researchers say-and they have the brain scans to prove it.
The chocolate makes us more attentive and awake, and its benefits aren't psychological; it affects areas of the brain associated with attention and focus, say researchers from Northern Arizona University, who connected a group of volunteers to EEG scanners.
The 122 participants had their brains monitored while they were given a piece of dark chocolate, with 60-per-cent cacao, and five 'dummy' pieces. Only when they ate the real chocolate did the appropriate areas of the brain become stimulated, they said.
It's the cacao in the chocolate that has the brain-stimulating qualities, so only dark chocolate will do. The sugar and milk in standard chocolate don't have the same effects.
In one of the tests, the researchers added the amino acid L-theanine to the cacao. The amino acid, most commonly found in green tea, lowered the participants' blood pressure and created a sense of calm and peace.
(Source: NeuroRegulation, 2015; 2: 3-28)