Some people rely on sleeping pills whenever they cannot sleep at night, not knowing that there is a better way to get their minds and bodies at rest — eating dark chocolates.
A study, spearheaded by Dr Gerben Van Ooijen from the school of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, revealed that a vital nutrient found in dark chocolates can help a person sleep better at night. .
Magnesium, present in many foods such as dark chocolate, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, helps cells to cope in the body's circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm or internal clock is the one responsible for the different bodily functions such as sleeping, waking and temperature.
"Internal clocks are fundamental to all living things. They influence many aspects of health and disease in our own bodies, but equally in crop plants and micro-organisms," said Ooijen.
The team from University of Edinburgh and MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge worked on three biological organisms — fungi, algae and human cells.
With the use of molecular analysis, the researchers found levels of magnesium that oscillates as the cells undergo the 24-hour clock. This 24-hour rise and fall oscillation is vital to sustain the cell's energy for the whole duration of the day.
Surprisingly, the presence of magnesium in the cells also contributes to its metabolism or the efficiency of cells to convert nutrients into energy within the day. Magnesium also controls the burning of energy whenever the cells biologically need it.
This discovery may help in the development of chronotherapy or the treatment scheduled depending on the body's circadian rhythm and the improvement of various crops that can be harvested in an extended season.
"It is now essential to find out how these fundamentally novel observations translate to whole tissue or organisms, to make us better equipped to influence them in complex organisms for future medical and agricultural purposes." Ooijen said.
"The new discovery could lead to a whole range of benefits spanning human health to agricultural productivity." said Senior author Dr. John O'Neill from MRC Laboratory, Molecular Biology, Cambridge.
The findings are revealed in the journal Nature, April 13.
Photo: Janice Marie Foote | Flickr