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High-Cacao Content Chocolate Has Acute Electrocortical Effect

Acute stimulating effect on human brain, increase in diastolic blood pressure with high cacao chocolate

WEDNESDAY, May 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Consumption of high cacao chocolate is associated with an acute stimulating effect on the human brain and vasoconstrictive effects on the peripheral vasculature, according to a study published in NeuroRegulation.

Michelle Montopoli, from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and colleagues examined the effects of chocolate consumption on electroencephalograph (EEG) frequencies and localization and on blood pressure. One hundred twenty-two participants consumed higher (60 percent) cacao chocolate, low (0 percent) cacao chocolate, higher cacao chocolate + L-theanine, high-sugar water, low-sugar water, or water. The authors measured EEGs, blood pressure, and mood before and after a 60-minute digestion period.

The researchers found that, compared with control conditions, consumption of a 60 percent cacao confection correlated with a decrease in frontal, parietal, and temporal theta and an increase in occipital beta EEG. Compared with water alone and with higher cacao chocolate + L-theanine, consumption of 60 percent cacao correlated with increased diastolic blood pressure. Following consumption of higher cacao + L theanine chocolate, diastolic and systolic blood pressure decreased by an average of 4 to 8 mm Hg. There were no condition-specific mood changes or gender differences observed.

"This study suggests an acute stimulating effect of cacao on the human brain and vasoconstrictive effects on peripheral vasculature, the latter of which appear to be offset by an L-theanine additive," the authors write.

Chocolate products for the study were provided by The Hershey Company, which also provided guidance and support throughout the study and reviewed the manuscript.

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