Believe it or not we are now told by researchers that eating dark chocolate will give your brain a boost. What refreshing news if this turns out to be true, especially as one grows older when our brain becomes less efficient and needs rejuvenating, which is rarely possible. Chocoholics will not doubt be pleased to hear there is such a thing as comfort eating after all.

One 50 gram bar of dark chocolate can ease your stress levels, put you in a better mood and even boost your brain power. A study that scanned the brains of people eating dark chocolate found changes usually seen when someone enters a meditative state, as well as activity likely to improve memory.

The chocolate consumed was 70% cocoa and 30% organic sugar cane, marketed as a health food. Much research on dark chocolate finds benefits only after eating large amounts of it. But the findings, from Loma Linda University in the USA, show people see results after just half a standard-sized bar. The benefits to the brain are believed to come from the antioxidants that the chocolate contains, in higher levels than some fruits and vegetables.

Researchers gave five people aged 22 to 40 the dark chocolate bar totalling 40-50 grams and scanned inner regions of their brain. Half an hour after consumption, the frequency of gamma waves in the brain – which links cells and improve connectivity – increased. They showed reduced stress and improved mood, according to the researchers. The fast, high frequency waves also occur during cognitive processing so may boost memory.

Dr Lee S. Berk, a researcher in food science from Loma Linda said: ‘There appear to be beneficial effects from eating 70% cocoa dark chocolate. This is the first study to show beneficial effects over time from dark chocolate after consuming such a small amount.’ A second study also presented by Dr Berk at the experimental conferences found it boosted the immune system based on a white blood cell count.

As old age beckons, sooner or later memory becomes a problem, especially remembering people’s names. I will certainly begin eating dark chocolates, hoping that this will go some way to improving my own memory, which I struggle with occasionally. Optimism will, I am sure, be a prime factor in this regard.

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