Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have anti-inflammatory effects in both the body and the brain. "It can cross the blood-brain barrier and help protect the neurons in the brain," she told mbg.
The flavonoids in dark chocolate also induce expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein responsible for neurogenesis. In other words, eating dark chocolate can trigger chemical reactions in the brain that help create new brain cells. But not just any brain cells.
According to Willeumier, growth occurs in "an area of the brain, the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory". Because of this, chocolate can reduce your risk of cognitive decline or Alzheimer's disease.
"The other great thing about dark chocolate is that it helps release nitric oxide," she adds, "which increases vasodilation and ensures that the brain has plenty of oxygenated blood." Through this mechanism, eating dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure.
"I had patients who were completely shocked at how much their blood pressure dropped when they drank dark chocolate every day," says Willeumier mbg.