Is Hot Chocolate the New Brain Food? One Study Says It Can Make You Smarter

Pass the chocolate!

By: Amanda Mushro
Blue mugs of cocoa, delicious dessert for cold weather or Christmas time. Hot cocoa in cups.


Blue mugs of cocoa, delicious dessert for cold weather or Christmas time. Hot cocoa in cups.

Photo by: Yulia Naumenko

Yulia Naumenko

Go ahead, grab your favorite mug and pour yourself some hot chocolate. Not only is this wintertime beverage a favorite of kids and adults, but it might actually help your mental agility.

According to a study in Scientific Reports, the brains of healthy adults recover faster and perform better after consuming a chemical found in cocoa called flavanols. This chemical, which is also found in fruit and veggies, allowed people to complete cognitive tasks more efficiently. So, while drinking hot chocolate is a fabulous treat on a cold day, it may also help you wrap up some work, finish a crossword puzzle and answer your kid’s never-ending questions.

For the study, researchers gave some participants a cocoa drink while others had a non-cocoa beverage. What they found was that the participants who drank the cocoa were able to complete cognitive tasks 11 percent faster than the other group. Researchers say this increase is due to flavanol producing a faster and greater increase in blood oxygenation levels in the brain.

“We used cocoa in our experiment, but flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables,” said the report’s lead author, Catarina Rendeiro. “It also further suggests that flavanols might be particularly beneficial during cognitively demanding tasks.”

Beyond having an excuse to drink lots of hot cocoa, researchers say they hope this study leads to a better understanding of what types of foods and drinks can help kickstart brainpower.

“We can link this with our results on improved blood oxygenation—if you’re being challenged more, your brain needs improved blood oxygen levels to manage that challenge,” Rendeiro said. “By better understanding the cognitive benefits of eating these food groups… we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices.”

So, go ahead and grab yourself a cup of hot chocolate to test out the study. If nothing else, at least you get to enjoy a sweet treat.

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