We were all raised with the certain knowledge that eating carrots is good for your eyesight … and if you grew up in a corny house like mine, bunnies were always offered up as proof: “You never saw a rabbit wearing glasses, did you?” Well as it turns out, the Easter bunny may just want to dip into his own basket of chocolate treats rather than munching on the same old crunchy orange vegetable; chocolate is good for your eyesight too … maybe even better!
The research behind this discovery comes from the University of Reading in England and was reported in Physiology and Behavior, and the bottom line is that – once again – those wonderful cocoa flavanols that are found in dark chocolate are behind the benefit. This time the flavanols are boosting blood flow to the body in general, which increases the blood supply to the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that helps us the most when we’re trying to see in low-contrast conditions like fog, and doing so takes a lot of energy. The increase in blood that dark chocolate delivers to the retina helps it to function more effectively – far more effectively than is the case when white chocolate or other, lower-flavanol food is consumed.
The study tested for the improvement in eyesight about two hours after the dark chocolate had been consumed, and the actual performance areas that were tested included sensitivity to movement, how long it took to sense direction of movement, and the ability to distinguish objects in low contrast situations. The subjects involved were actually tested twice to ensure that the differences in test performance were consistently attributable to the cocoa flavanols. The scientists involved were independent researchers with no relationship to any chocolate or confectioner candies, and they were quite confident in their results; the director of the study said that the impact on performance can actually be seen in as little as an hour, giving credence to the idea that if you’re going to be driving on a dark and stormy night, it wouldn’t hurt to nosh on a bar of chocolate before you head out. Of course, there are other foods that are high in flavanol that will have the same impact; these include teas, fruits, and vegetables (yes, including carrots), but where’s the fun in that?