Can Chocolate Benefit Your Brain?
Many of us think of chocolate as a “guilty pleasure.” But a growing number of studies suggest it may actually be good for your brain.
It’s all about the flavanols
Chocolate gained a heart-healthy reputation in the early 2000s. Several studies found that the beneficial antioxidants in cocoa powder, called flavanols, support healthy blood pressure, blood clotting, and blood circulation. The good news for chocophiles is that these same compounds also benefit your brain!
Cocoa improves cerebral blood flow
Blood flow to the brain is very important for healthy brain function. It helps keep the brain supplied with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to work properly. Cocoa flavanols support healthy blood flow by helping to keep blood vessels healthy.i
Several studies have found that the flavanols in cocoa can help improve blood flow and oxygenation to the brain, resulting in better cognitive performance.ii,iii,iv
Cocoa is a natural mood-booster
If you’ve ever reached for chocolate to cheer you up when you’re feeling low, you’re not alone. In one large survey, 70% of adults reported they were less likely to feel down if they’d had chocolate in the last 24 hours.v
That’s probably because cocoa flavanols help boost happy brain chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine.vi Clinical studies have linked chocolate with improvements in mood and feelings of calm.vii,viii
Cocoa may support healthy brain aging
It’s common for older brains to experience a natural decline in memory and mental sharpness. Because cocoa flavanols support cerebral blood flow and healthy brain function, researchers have been investigating whether chocolate may have benefits for the aging brain.
So far, the results look promising. Recent studies have found that cocoa flavanols may help improve cognitive function and memory in older adults with normal, age-related mental decline.ix,x All the more reason to keep indulging your love of chocolate. If you really want to do your brain a solid, consider adding brain-boosting botanicals to your cup.
Gingko and bacopa support for cognitive function
If you’re looking for natural memory support, look no further than two premier botanicals: ginkgo, native to China, and bacopa, traditionally used in India. Both ginkgo and bacopa have been shown to help mild memory problems associated with aging in multiple human clinical trials.xi,xii
Keep in mind that the brain benefits of chocolate come from the cacao bean, not the sugar and fat! JBA Harmony Hot Cacao is made from pure, raw cacao — which is even higher in flavanols than processed cocoa powder — so you can get the natural brain benefits of this unexpected superfood.*
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Engler MB, Engler MM, Chen CY, et al. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):197-204. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2004.10719361.
- Gratton G, Weaver SR, Burley CV, et al. Dietary flavanols improve cerebral cortical oxygenation and cognition in healthy adults. Sci Rep 10, 19409 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-76160-9
- Francis ST, Head K, Morris PG, et al. The effect of flavanol-rich cocoa on the fMRI response to a cognitive task in healthy young people. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2006;47 Suppl 2:S215-20. doi: 10.1097/00005344-200606001-00018.
- University of Nottingham. “Boosting Brain Power — With Chocolate.” ScienceDaily. 22 February 2007. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070221101326.htm
- Jackson, SE, Smith, L, Firth, J, et al. Depress Anxiety. 2019; 36: 987– 995. doi: 10.1002/da.22950
- Nehlig, Astrid. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Brit J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):716-27. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378.x
- Scholey A, Owen L. Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2013 Oct;71(10):665-81. doi: 10.1111/nure.12065.
- Pase MP, Scholey AB, Pipingas A, et al. Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2013;27(5):451-458. doi:10.1177/0269881112473791
- Brickman A, Khan U, Provenzano F, et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nat Neurosci. 2014;(17):1798–1803. doi: 10.1038/nn.3850
- Desideri G, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, et al. The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) study. Hypertension. 2012 Sep;60(3):794-801. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.193060.
- Ginkgo biloba. Mount Sinai.
- Raman R. 7 emerging benefits of Bacopa monnieri (Brahmi). Updated Oct. 31, 2019.