A hot cup of attention tempered with chocolate, please

Researchers examined the acute effects of brewed cocoa consumption on attention, motivation to perform cognitive work and feelings of anxiety, energy and fatigue.

Science is proving that cocoa and caffeine are indeed the best marriage ever. Clarkson University researcher Ali Boolani recently completed a study that explores the powers of these two dark delights.

In a nearly year-long double-blind study, some lucky test subjects drank brewed cocoa, cocoa with caffeine, caffeine without cocoa, and a placebo with neither caffeine nor cocoa. Then they were asked to do tests to evaluate both cognitive tasks and mood.

When researchers compared the different groups, they found that people who drank cocoa alone completed tasks faster and made fewer mistakes. Caffeine alone had similar effects, but it also tended to increase anxiety.

Here's the cool part: According to the study, that effect wasn't present in the caffeine-and-cocoa group. In other words, cocoa mitigated caffeine's anxiety-inducing influence.

On top of its apparent calming influence, cocoa has been linked with a number of health benefits. It's packed with antioxidants, and consumption has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. It's worth noting that this applies to raw cocoa, not the sugary stuff you buy at the grocery store, but even dark chocolate is thought to improve cardiovascular health.

In contrast, caffeine's reputation isn't quite so well-regarded. Although coffee is so commonly drunk that this is often overlooked, the fact remains that caffeine is a drug.

Before you envy the test subjects too much, bear in mind they had to work for the warm drinks. For example, they were asked to watch as letters flashed across a screen and note when an "X" appeared after an "A." They also had to point out when odd numbers appeared sequentially, and they were required to do subtraction.

"The results of the tests are definitely promising and show that cocoa and caffeine are good choices for students and anyone else who needs to improve sustained attention," says Boolani.

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