The common default holiday gift to give to loved ones has always been chocolate. However, this reoccurring chocolate gift could improve thinking skills and memory in humans. Psychologist Merrill Elias conducted a study on how diet affects cognitive abilities. Elias discovered that people who eat chocolate at least once a week tend to perform better cognitively than those who do not each chocolate regularly (Ferdman, March 2016). The hippocampus controls memory in the brain. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system in the brain which is responsible for emotions, memory, and learning.
Consuming dark chocolate could temporarily improve visual and cognitive functions (Williams and Butler, March 2011). There are a variety of ingredients in chocolate that gives it its flavor; one of the ingredients is flavanols. A flavonol is a subgroup of flavonoids, which is the largest group of phytochemicals. There are more than 8,000 phytochemicals that have been identified by scientists (Busch, December 2015). Flavonols are antioxidants that are found naturally in plants such as a cocoa plant.
Chocolate contains cocoa flavonols which enhances memory (Godman, February 2015). The reason that flavonoids improve memory is because they have the potential to improve signaling pathways in the brain (Williams, et. al, March 2013) Dark chocolate contains a higher concentration of flavanols than milk chocolate. Milk chocolate contains approximately 7%-15% of cocoa while dark chocolate contains 30%-70%. The more cocoa in the chocolate, the more flavonoids available to boost brainpower (Russell, February 2016).
Along with improving memory, flavanols in chocolate have also been proven to decrease blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, and prevent cell damage (Godman, February 2015). A study conducted in 2010 revealed that cocoa flavonoids have a positive influence on physiological processes which suggests that consuming them will improve aspects of cognitive function (French SJ et. al, October 2010). Other studies have concluded that dark chocolate improves memory therefore if dark chocolate improves memory, then the participants will remember more numbers after eating a piece of dark chocolate.
Materials The materials used to conduct this experiment were a Hersey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar, a timer, and a random number generator to generate a twenty-digit number. The two random twenty-digit numbers were 08048454275342862106 and 70098610203950966302. Method 1. Test 25 Northwood High School students ranging from the age of 14-18 2. Separate the participant and provide them with a quiet environment 3. Give the participant the number (08048454275342862106) on a dark computer screen 4. Tell the participant to turn on the computer and begin memorizing the number
5. Give the participant 10 seconds to memorize the twenty-digit number 6. Record the amount of numbers the participant remembered correctly 7. Give participant a square of dark chocolate 8. Have the participant eat the square of dark chocolate 9. Give the participant the number (70098610203950966302) on a dark computer screen 10. Tell the participant to turn on the computer and begin memorizing the number 11. Give the participant 10 seconds to memorize the twenty-digit number 12. Record the amount of numbers the participant remembered correctly 13. Repeat this procedure for 25 students
Results The results of the experiment depicted that the majority of the subjects were able to improve on the amount of numbers they were able to recall after eating dark chocolate. To confirm this assumption mathematically through statistics, a matched pairs t-test was performed. The test revealed a p-value of . 001 and because the p-value is lower than the alpha level of . 05 there is sufficient evidence to suggest that chocolate does improve the memory of high school students. On average, the subjects were able to recall 5. 56 numbers without eating chocolate and 7. 8 numbers after ingesting chocolate. This finding along with findings from other researchers such as Merrill Elias suggests that dark chocolate does improve memory. Figure 1: The subjects were asked to remember a list of twenty numbers and were given ten seconds to remember the as many numbers as possible in order.
The age of the subjects was recorded along with their gendered. M refers to male and F refers to female. All the subjects were Northwood High School students. On average, most subjects remembered 5. 56 numbers out of 20 without chocolate and 7. 8 numbers out of 20 with chocolate. How Does Dark Chocolate Affect Memory? Figure 2: This graph depicts the difference of each subject correctly recalling numbers without chocolate and with chocolate. The blue data is the first trial of each subject when they were not allowed to eat chocolate. The orange data is the second trial of each subject when they were given a piece of Hersey’s Special Dark Chocolate. Generally, most people were able to succeed during the second trial either through eating the dark chocolate or gaining experience after the first trial.
A few of the subjects were able to accurately recall eleven numbers in order, eleven was the highest number students were able to recall. Discussion The results from this experiment support the hypothesis that eating chocolate does in fact improve memory along with the other health benefits such as lower blood pressure and prevention of cell damage. For most students, eating chocolate and then performing the task of memorizing a twenty-digit number in ten seconds allowed them to improve the amount of numbers they were able to recall.
Many researchers have suggested that ingesting dark chocolate at least once a week will improve memory because of the high amounts of flavonoids in dark chocolate. Many studies suggest that eating chocolate and other foods high in flavonoids will improve memory in the elderly and also protect the brain from normal memory loss due to age (Russell, February 2016). Despite the general assumption that chocolate improves memory, six of the subjects in this experiment did better on the first trial, without the chocolate. There are a variety of ways to explain why these subject performed worse during the second trial.
One reason that they could have performed poorly is the dislike of chocolate that could have disrupted their concentration on memorizing the numbers. Another explanation could be that the second number was either considered easier or harder by the participants. Many of the participants believed that the second number was easier to remember than the first and vice versa. Since the majority of subjects were able to recall more number during the second trial could be influenced trial and error during the first trial; meaning that the subjects could have developed a new way to memorize the numbers from failing in the first trial.
This error could be avoided in future experiments by alternating which trial they eat the chocolate. However, allowing the subjects to eat the chocolate first could improve their ability to recall the second trial of numbers without chocolate. Another possible adjustment that could be made to the experiment is switching the twenty-digit numbers which would limit the possibility of making one number easier than the other through practice. Extending this experiment over a long period of time such as two months and test the memory of subjects who ate hocolate every week against subjects who did not eat chocolate would eliminate the possibility of luck that could be determined in this experiment.
Overall, the findings from this experiment as consistent with the conclusion from Merrill Elias’ study that concluded that dark chocolate does in fact improve cognitive functions. Conclusion The purpose of this experiment was to the demonstrate that dark chocolate enhances memory. The results from the experiment support the hypothesis that eating dark chocolate will help students remember more numbers accurately than without dark chocolate.