dark chocolate enhances cognitive benefits of exercise

What could be better news than the discovery that chocolate makes you smarter? Wait, did you read that right?

One of the less talked about benefits of exercise is that it strengthens not only your body, but your brain. Exercise improves cognitive function: it improves both executive function and memory. Executive function includes things like working memory, reasoning, task flexibility and problem solving. Since dark chocolate improves exercise, could it enhance the cognitive benefits of exercise?

That’s exactly what researchers set out to examine in the latest chocolate study. The study gave ten healthy, young men either flavanol rich cocoa drink or a low flavanol cocoa drink 70 minutes before they exercised. The flavanol rich drink had 536mg of cocoa flavanols, while the placebo drink had only 38mg. The study was single-blind, meaning the men didn’t know which drink they were getting, but the researchers did.

70 minutes after having the drink, the men did a moderate intensity cycling exercise for 30 minutes. They then took tests of executive function and memory.

The chocolate had no effect on memory. But it had a significant effect on executive function. In both groups, executive function improved: that’s because the exercise alone improved executive function. But it improved more in the high flavanol cocoa group, meaning that eating dark chocolate before exercising enhances the beneficial effects of exercise on executive function. It is possible in this study that the chocolate improved executive function before the exercise even began.

As you'll see in our upcoming book on dark chocolate, this not the first time that chocolate has been shown to benefit exercise or your brain. Several studies have shown that chocolate benefits exercise, and several have shown that it makes you smarter. But this is the first study to show that it does both at the same time.

Nutrition 2017;doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2017.08.017

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For more on healthy eating for mind and memory, see Linda's newest book, The All-New Vegetarian Passport: a comprehensive health book and cookbook all in one.

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 is intended for educational purposes only and is in no way intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. For health problems, consult a qualified health practitioner for a comprehensive program.

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