A Loma Linda University research team, led by Lee Berk, DrPH, has confirmed that the consumption of dark chocolate (cacao) benefits brain health.
Berk presented these findings earlier during the 45th annual Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
The research team’s initial studies have shown that absorbed cacao flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in the brain regions associated with learning and memory, resulting in nerve-altering and protective proteins that promote nerve cell growth, increase brain function and brain communication, improve blood flow and promote the formation of blood vessels in the brain and sensory systems.
Cacao or dark chocolate (70 percent cacao content) is a major source of flavonoids, powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components with known processes shown to be beneficial to cardiovascular health.
“We have for the first time shown that there is a possible connection of neuroelectric activities that initiate the mechanisms of cacao's beneficial effects on brain reasoning and intellect, synchronization, memory, recall, mood and behavior,” Berk says.
He feels that neuroelectric activity initiation and modulatory control of acute and chronic action from cacao flavonoids on brain state will need further investigation, but he also senses that it is the wave of the future for assessing effects on brain state modulation by healthy chocolate.
“We are tremendously excited about what these findings could potentially mean for brain health,” Berk says. “Cacao can regulate various levels of sensory awareness and evenly increases power spectral density (uV2) of different electroencephalographic (EEG) frequencies.
“The most profound finding is that the EEG gamma wave band frequency — which is associated with the brain’s highest level of mental processing, enhanced memory and recall, and physiological benefits — is the frequency that is most meaningfully increased above all other brain frequencies,” Berk continues.
Berk says that this study provides unbiased evidence that the EEG gamma wave band frequency (γBA) is started by different cacao sensory awareness tasks ranging from prior conditioned experience to acute cacao consumption, with later modulation for brain, behavioral and physiological benefits.
“This may open the door for potential restorative uses of high concentration cacao (70 percent) for individuals with memory/recall or dementia and aging-related issues,” he says.
Further studies are in progress by Berk’s research team at Loma Linda University Health to investigate these questions.