A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of the effects of dark chocolate and cocoa on variables associated with neuropsychological functioning and cardiovascular health: clinical findings from a sample of healthy, cognitively intact older adults

Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):872-80. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.4.872.


Background: In recent years, there has been increased interest in the potential health-related benefits of antioxidant- and phytochemical-rich dark chocolate and cocoa.

Objective: The objective of the study was to examine the short-term (6 wk) effects of dark chocolate and cocoa on variables associated with neuropsychological functioning and cardiovascular health in healthy older adults.

Design: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, fixed-dose, parallel-group clinical trial was used. Participants (n = 101) were randomly assigned to receive a 37-g dark chocolate bar and 8 ounces (237 mL) of an artificially sweetened cocoa beverage or similar placebo products each day for 6 wk.

Results: No significant group (dark chocolate and cocoa or placebo)-by-trial (baseline, midpoint, and end-of-treatment assessments) interactions were found for the neuropsychological, hematological, or blood pressure variables examined. In contrast, the midpoint and end-of-treatment mean pulse rate assessments in the dark chocolate and cocoa group were significantly higher than those at baseline and significantly higher than the midpoint and end-of-treatment rates in the control group. Results of a follow-up questionnaire item on the treatment products that participants believed they had consumed during the trial showed that more than half of the participants in both groups correctly identified the products that they had ingested during the experiment.

Conclusions: This investigation failed to support the predicted beneficial effects of short-term dark chocolate and cocoa consumption on any of the neuropsychological or cardiovascular health-related variables included in this research. Consumption of dark chocolate and cocoa was, however, associated with significantly higher pulse rates at 3- and 6-wk treatment assessments.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Beverages*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cacao / chemistry*
  • Candy*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hematologic Tests
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Mental Recall / drug effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Neuroprotective Agents