Updated: Nov 21, 2019
A smooth, rich, and slightly sweet piece of dark chocolate can be a wonderful way to fulfill your chocolate craving without going overboard, but did you know you could be improving your mood and cognition at the same time? For all of the chocolate lovers out there, we have good news for you.
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a chemical responsible for feeling of euphoria, arousal, excitation, and can also contribute to concentration and attention. The elation or happiness that we find in chocolate consumption operates on the same mechanisms in the brain as more powerful stimulants, but in a smaller and more controlled amount. Along with phenylethylamine, chocolate has antioxidants for cell protection, anandamide for neurogenesis, and tryptophan, a precursor of our a primary feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin.
A cross sectional survey of 13,626 adults by researchers from UCL worked in collaboration with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada used the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to assess depressive symptoms in the participants who consumed no chocolate, non-dark chocolate, and dark chocolate in two 24 hour dietary recalls. Participants who consumed chocolate of any kind at an amount of 104-454 grams per day had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms in comparison to participants who consumed no chocolate. Results also concluded that individuals who consumed particularly dark chocolate, reflected a significant 70% lower score of clinically relevant depressive symptoms on the questionnaire.
Whether eaten as a bar, mixed in a smoothie, or melted over strawberries, there is yet another reason to justify our dark chocolate cravings, and few reasons to not fulfill them!