Scientists are finally confirming what dark chocolate lovers already knew — the sweet treats reduce stress and improve mood.
What the dessert food's devotees might not have predicted, however, is that dark chocolate also shrinks inflammation while strengthening memory and the immune system, according to a new study from Loma Linda University.
These select types of dark chocolate are only truly beneficial if they're rich in cacao — made with at least 70% — and made with organic cane sugar, according to the research presented Tuesday at the Experimental Biology 2018 summit in San Diego.
"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content — the more sugar, the happier we are," lead author, psychoneuroimmunology and food science researcher Lee S. Berk said in a release. “These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects."
The study found that when introduced to the body, dark chocolate packed with cacao activated immune cells and the genes involved in neural signaling and sensory perception. It also enhanced neuroplasticity, — the brain's ability to form new connections within itself - neural synchrony and the ability to learn, process and retain new information.
Further research will be conducted to fully understand cacao's effects on the immune system, Berk said, but new studies are currently underway to see how varying levels change the cause-and-effect relationship of how chocolate interacts with the brain.