ADHD Inattentive symptoms may be improved by cocoa flavanols and dark chocolate. A new study published in the Journal Physiology and Behavior has found that visual working memory and reaction time can be improved by a one time consumption of 720 mg of cocoa flavanols. These beneficial working memory effects, that may improve ADHD Inattentive symptoms, were seen 1 week after the cocoa consumption.

ADHD Inattentive symptoms may be primarily related to working memory and reaction time deficits and this recent study point to the ability of dark chocolate to improve these deficits. The study subjects did not have ADHD Inattentive, they were young adults without a history of cognitive problems but this study is important because most studies looking at the benefits of dark chocolate have been performed using older adults with a history of age related cognitive decline.

The young adults consumed one dose of dark chocolate containing 720 mg of cocoa flavonols. The controls consumed an equivalent amount of white chocolate and then both test subjects and controls were tested on a visual working memory and reaction time tasks a week later.  These visual working memory tasks and reaction time tasks are frequently performed poorly by people with ADHD Inattentive Symptoms.

The researchers found that, “In terms of cognitive performance, CF (cocoa flavanols) improved spatial memory and performance on some aspects of the choice reaction time task. As well as extending the range of cognitive tasks that are known to be influenced by CF consumption." These benefits could very well be important in the treatment of ADHD Inattentive.

The Mars Company, the same folks that bring us M&Ms, Snickers bars and Dove bars have been studying chocolate. The Mars company laboratory has published many studies on the benefits of consuming dark chocolate. According to the Mars website, the benefits of cocoa flavonols are not just related to cocoa's antioxidant effect, Mars reports that, “the consumption of cocoa flavanols can have important beneficial effects on the function of the body’s network of blood vessels... that are independent of general "antioxidant" effects that cocoa flavanols exhibit in a test tube, outside of the body. The body of research not only suggests that these cocoa flavanols may provide a dietary approach to maintaining cardiovascular function and health, but also points to new possibilities for cocoa flavanol-based interventions.

The amount of cocoa flavanols in chocolate depends on the percentage of cocoa and on the way the chocolate in processed. Dutch processed chocolate contains less flavanols than non-Dutch process. Dark chocolate contains way more flavanols than milk chocolate. Seventy percent cocoa, dark chocolate bars, contain more cocoa flavanols than 50% cocoa bars.

A one hundred gram bar of a 70% cocoa, dark chocolate bar will give you about 100 mg to 200 mg of cocoa flavanols. Most single size bars of chocolate, your standard size Dove bar that you can buy at the grocery store right next to the cashier, is about 33 grams. You would have to consume three of these to get about 150 mg of flavanols and you would have to eat 15 of them to get the amount of flavanols used to get the ADHD Inattentive symptom benefits seen in this recent Physiology and Behavior study.

As much as I love chocolate, consuming this much chocolate is out of the question. Mars, predictably, has solved this problem. Mars makes a product called Cirku that contains 320 mg of cocoa flavonols. They claim that they have a very special manner in which they make this drink so that it contains only the finest and most beneficial cocoa flavanols. The product is a powder that you add to water. It costs about $1.00 per serving and at this point you can only buy it at the Mars web page for Circu.

Some cardiologists are now recommending that their patients eat a 6 gram square of dark chocolate daily to protect their hearts. It is possible that consuming a little bit of chocolate every day may have the same effect on our ADHD Inattentive symptoms and on our cognitive functioning and working memory as consuming 720 mg all at once. It is unclear if this daily consumption could be used as ADHD Inattentive treatment and if it would be as beneficial as consuming 720 mg in one fell swoop because this has not been studied yet.

If you are going to consume dark chocolate to see if it helps ADHD Inattentive symptoms, it probably should be at least 70 percent cocoa and it is probably not a bad idea to buy the fair trade chocolate. The studies on heart disease and chocolate have found that people who consumed an average of six grams of dark chocolate a day had about a 40% lower chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

ADHD Inattentive symptoms may be improved by consuming cocoa flavanol. Studies have shown that the best ADHD Inattentive treatments improve working memory and reaction time deficits.  From this newly publish Physiology and Behavior study it would appear that the cocoa flavanols are helpful in this regard. Wouldn't it be sweet if chocolate was the best medicine for ADHD Inattentive symptoms?  Yes!! I'm off to buy my fair trade, seventy percent chocolate bar right now.

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Physiology and Behavior. 2011 Feb 12. [Epub ahead of print]
Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in an acute improvement in visual and cognitive functions.
Field DT, Williams CM, Butler LT


  1. Hi Tess,

    Do you use cocoa flavanols now? And do you see any improvements in your memory after using them? And also, what are the other things that help you with memory?


  2. I have not used these but my memory seems to be helped by coffee.


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