Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dark Chocolate: Good and Healthy

A recent study at the University of Reading supports the notion that dark chocolate may temporarily improve visual and cognitive functions. For up to two hours after consumption, participants in the study had enhanced ability to see under difficult conditions, also known as contrast sensitivity. Researchers used a control group of people who consumed white chocolate as a comparison. Researchers performed the visual part of the study by having participants read a set of numbers on a screen and then lowering the contrast of that screen until the participants could no longer identify the number on the screen. Other visual tests involved the use of moving dots. The dark chocolate group was about 17% better at discerning objects in lower lighting conditions. They were able to read numbers at lower contrast levels than those who at white chocolate. The cognitive tests consisted of memory and reaction time tests. For memory, the participants had to identify objects that changed position when viewing a scene on two different screens. Again, the dark chocolate group outperformed the other and was able to identify more objects that changed location. For reaction time, the participants had to press a specific key based on what was presented on a screen. People who ate the dark chocolate had faster key times than those who ate the white chocolate.

What is the cause of this interesting phenomena? Researchers believe that it is an abundant plant compound, known as a flavanoid, that is found within cocoa beans, grapes, and some tea leaves. Some believe that these flavanoids act as antioxidants or increase the nitric oxide gas production, which helps control blood flow and pressure. Unfortunately, there hasn't been too much research into the health benefits of chocolate. Other studies support the idea that eating chocolate can improve cognitive functions, but researchers still do not know the exact cause of this. More time and research could provide answers to the health benefits and costs of chocolate. Either way, I still plan on adding a little more chocolate to my diet.

Article can be found here

Posted by Kevin McLaughlin (2)

3 comments:

  1. I learned same as you have described above in my nutrition class that dark chocolates are made of flavonoid which has anti-oxidants. It helps in maintaining heart and cardiovascular system. Also, it increases the activity because it contains caffeine as well. It does help when you are depressed because it also act as anti-depressant. I would prefer dark chocolate over regular chocolate because it has lot of benefits towards heart and doesn't have much fat as you would find in regular chocolate which tastes better over dark chocolate.

    Arpita Patel

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  2. What kind of control group was used for this experiment? While the results are interesting, I do not feel like there is enough support for there to be any conclusion about the effects of dark chocolate. A small percentage like 17 is hardly enough to convince me that there is an actual benefit to my cognitive or visual abilities. Many people are aware that foods like dark chocolate and grapes have antioxidants and incorporate them into their diets for that reason alone.

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