As I sit here happily munching on a square of Lindt 85% strength cacao chocolate, I’m delighted to learn of a recent US study which suggests that eating said deliciousness could in fact increase my visual clarity.
So it appears I’m not only satisfying my afternoon chocolate craving, but also improving my eye sight. Nirvana!
The new research, released in April by the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry in San Antonio, looked at the effect of milk versus dark chocolate on types of visual perception: visual acuity, large and small letter contrast sensitivity. The researchers found that bars with more than 72% cacao increase blood flow that sharpens your ability to read words and numbers.
Experts have been studying the health benefits of chocolate for years and increasing research suggests that dark chocolate has much greater health implications than milk chocolate.
Improved vision could be the next item added to a growing list of health benefits from eating dark chocolate, which can only be good news. Other touted benefits include improved heart health, better brain function and enhanced mood.
The key ingredient driving these benefits is the cacao beans that are rich in flavanol, an organic compound found in fruits and vegetables that reduces inflammation.
Inflammation is a risk factor for many different diseases. It is clear that inflammation is associated with degenerative brain diseases, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Previous studies have suggested that flavanol also improves blood flow in the brain and cardiovascular system in the short term, but little research has been done into its effects on vision.
In the new study, 30 people with an average age of 26 were each given a 47g Trader Joe's 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate bar and a 40g Trader Joe's Crisp Rice Milk Chocolate bar in separate sessions at least three days apart. The dark chocolate bar had eight times more flavanols than the milk chocolate bar.
Two hours after eating the chocolate bar they were tested for multiple aspects of vision, including contrast and colour perception, distraction effects, marksmanship, and visual electrodiagnosis.
More than 70 per cent of the people scored significantly higher on the vision tests after eating the dark chocolate bar than they did after the milk bar.
One category that saw the biggest enhancement was contrast sensitivity, which is the ability to distinguish between light and dark values especially in situations of low light, fog or glare. Driving at night is an example of an activity that requires good contrast sensitivity for safety
Another was visual acuity or sharpness of vision, measured by the ability to distinguish letters or numbers at a distance (like seeing the wording “75% cacao“ well before hitting the chocolate counter).
'Although the specific mechanism for visual improvement awaits further study, an increase in retinal, visual pathway, and/or cerebral blood flow could be contributory, enhancing bioavailability of oxygen and nutrients to metabolically active sites,' said study author and optometrist Dr Jeff Rabin.
Dr Rabin added that future research will be needed to examine the exact mechanism that improved the vision markers as well as how long the enhancements lasted after eating the chocolate.
Meanwhile I guess I should probably keep eating it while that further research takes place!
While celebrating this news, I also discovered this healthy chocolate cake recipe from The Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter. Check it out here!