Is Chocolate a Nootropic?
Few people can say they have tried chocolate and didn’t like it.
It’s one of the most popular sweet substances produced in the world, appearing in candy, dessert, beverages and more.
Entire economic empires have sprouted from its popularity, including swiss chocolatiers, the European companies Cadbury and Nestle, the American company Hershey.
Chocolate manifests itself not only as a tasty treat, but also as a mood and memory enhancer. Some cultures even tout it as a mild aphrodisiac due to its psychotropic properties.
Most interestingly, however, is that chocolate has been shown to act as a nootropic, and quite a good one!
Origins of chocolate
First appearing as a bitter drink in central America, chocolate goes back thousands of years. When the Spanish conquistadors came to the Aztec Empire during the 1500s, the knowledge of chocolate spread to
Europe, quickly becoming part of the nobility and later a mainstream delicacy. Ever since the beginning of its consumption, chocolate was known for promoting a good mood and fighting off fatigue
Chocolate’s nootropic properties
Chocolate exerts its cognitive-enhancing effects through a few decent chemicals. It is a naturally occurring blend of polyphenols and mild stimulants that promote mental energy and a happier mood.
Polyphenols are a practically universal type of chemical occurring in plant leaves, whose specific properties vary throughout all species.
In the cacao bean, its polyphenols act as antioxidants, which help to scavenge free radicals generated by metabolism in our bodies. This helps our overall health (and especially brain health) to prevent and treat cellular damage due to oxidation. A similar effect can be observed in tea, where several polyphenols are also present.
The other key nootropic component found in the cacao bean is a set of three “stimulants”, which gives rise to the advice of not eating chocolate too close to bedtime.
Especially with dark chocolate, which is made with a larger volume of beans, these constituents can be quite energizing to our mental processes and really give a boost to memory function.
Firstly we have caffeine, which is familiar enough to those who drink coffee or energy drinks to know its effects. It is important to know that caffeine by itself can act as a nootropic based on an analysis we’ve done in this article: “Is Caffeine a Nootropic or Just a Stimulant?”
However, caffeine is of a relatively low amount compared to other chemicals found in the bean.
The real mood-booster of chocolate has to be theobromine, which is believed to be responsible for its promotion of feelings of love and happiness. It also, like caffeine, acts as a memory enhancer. In fact, theobromine comes from the same class of substance as caffeine, the xanthine alkaloids. It appears to be the culprit behind keeping some people up at night, as well.
Another source for effects is Phenylethylamine, otherwise known as PEA. Many bodybuilders and athletes seek this substance in a purer form to induce a rush of energy useful for working out. It comes from the class of chemical that is named after itself, the PEA class, which contains several other stimulants such as ephedrine and methylphenidate. It is quite strong, being known to induce euphoria with high enough doses. However, the amount found in chocolate just provides enough of a lift to be subtle.
Positive health effects of chocolate
Wikipedia has this to say about cacao’s health benefits:
- Cocoa or dark chocolate may have positive effects on the circulatory system.
- Eating chocolate can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
- Moderate chocolate consumption lowers blood pressure.
- Chocolate may boost cognitive abilities.
In the nootropic world, chocolate turns out to be much more than a delectable treat!
It contains some quite interesting compounds that are powerful yet subtle. The popularity it has may throw some people off, but the ingredients and their effect certainly do not lie.
Next time you consider eating some chocolate, you have an excuse to indulge without feeling guilty.