Dark chocolate may be giving your brain, immune system and eyes a real boost. This week, researchers brought out three new studies singing the praises of this delectable treat.  Scientists in one study allowed lucky volunteers to eat one dark chocolate bar, about 1.5 ounces, and then studied their brain waves with a machine called an E.E.G. Researchers found an increase in gamma waves 30 minutes after eating the chocolate.  “Gamma frequency is associated with neurosynchronization, in other words neuroplasticity…. It is the highest level of cognitive processing,” Dr. Lee Burk, the principal investigator of this study, explained. Neuroplasticity describes the brain’s ability to efficiently connect thoughts and ideas.  Scientists believe that gamma waves are a sign that your nerve cells are firing on all cylinders. They are able to talk to each other in a manner that leads to optimum learning and memory formation.  In another study, Burk looked at how dark chocolate affects the immune system. Again, participants ate a dark chocolate bar, and scientists studied their blood work for the following week. They found an increase in anti-inflammatory markers as well as an increase in T cells, infection-fighting cells. These findings are overall “great for immunity,” according to Burk.  It’s important to know that both of these studies were very small, with only 10 blessed participants. Not to mention, these results were presented at a scientific meeting, not published in a journal, which means they were not highly scrutinized, or “peer-reviewed,” before they were revealed.  But another study was published in JAMA Ophthalmology, a journal produced by the American Medical Association. In two different tests, they gave 30 participants two chocolate bars, both dark and milk chocolate, and conducted vision tests about two hours later. After eating dark chocolate, the participants had small improvements in their vision.  The most significant: improvement in contrast sensitivity, meaning your ability to tell the difference between objects in a low light or high-glare setting. In real life, contrast sensitivity comes into play when driving at night, for example.  It is unclear why dark chocolate affects vision; however, the authors think it has to do with the blood vessels in the eye. Cacao, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, has been shown to positively affect blood pressure and blood vessel function. This new research suggests that dark chocolate allows for more blood flow to back of the eye, therefore improving vision.

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