May 2013

Cocoa Consumption May Enhance Mood

A recent study suggests that chocolate may improve mood, but may not affect brain function.

Cocoa and chocolate are derived from the cacao bean (Theobroma cacao). Cacao is native to South America and has been grown in the tropics for at least 3,000 years. Today, the African country Ivory Coast is the largest supplier of raw cocoa.

Chocolate has been studied to investigate its effectiveness in the treatment of a variety of conditions, including heart disease, skin conditions, and constipation. However, there is a lack of studies to support the use of chocolate to treat any conditions in humans.

In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned healthy middle-aged individuals to receive one of three study drinks once daily for 30 days. The first group received a dark chocolate drink containing 500 milligrams of cocoa polyphenols (antioxidants found in chocolate), the second group received a drink containing 250 milligrams of cocoa polyphenols, and the third group received a placebo drink containing 0 milligrams of cocoa polyphenols. Mood was evaluated with the Bond-Lader Visual Analogue Scale and brain function was measured with the Cognitive Drug Research system.

The researchers found that individuals who consumed the drink with the most cocoa polyphenols reported significant increases in feeling calm and content when compared to those who consumed the placebo drink. Changes in cognitive function were lacking.

The authors concluded that chocolate consumption may improve mood in healthy individuals; however, further research is warranted to assess its potential affect on people with anxiety or depression.

In addition to enhanced mood, many health benefits associated with cocoa products have been examined clinically. Chocolate flavonoids, found in the highest amounts in dark chocolate, exhibit antioxidative and cardioprotective properties, as well as blood thinning activity. Cocoa formulations have also been studied for their therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of coronary artery disease, high cholesterol, skin conditions, vascular disorders, and constipation in children, as well their ability to heal wounds, repel insects and lower blood pressure.

For more information about chocolate, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

For more information about integrative therapies that may benefit mood, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

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  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Pase MP, Scholey AB, Pipingas A, et al. Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Psychopharmacol. 2013 May;27(5):451-8. doi: 10.1177/0269881112473791. 

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