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In the study, 72 people were divided into three groups and given drink mixes providing 20 grams of dark chocolate every day for 30 days. The drink mixes given to the groups had different amounts of cocoa polyphenols:
Cognitive tests and mood surveys were given to the participants at the beginning and end of the study. In addition, these same tests were used 1, 2.5, and 4 hours after each person took their first chocolate drink to see if there were immediate changes.
These were the results of the study:
“This randomized controlled trial is perhaps the first to demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood in healthy participants,” the study’s authors said. “This provides a rationale for exploring whether cocoa polyphenols can ameliorate the symptoms associated with clinical anxiety or depression.”
Antioxidant plant polyphenols are often marketed as anti-aging nutrients. The polyphenols in cocoa are mainly of a type known as catechins and are similar to those found in green tea and red wine. Dark chocolate is one of the richest sources of polyphenols, and the 20 gram (3/4 ounce) portion used in this study would typically have 200 to 400 mg of polyphenols. Milk chocolate might not have the same properties as dark chocolate because milk proteins tend to bind to polyphenols and reduce their absorption.
The health benefits of eating polyphenol-rich foods are still coming to light, but appear to include heart disease and cancer prevention, as well as improved mood. Here are some ways to boost your polyphenol intake:
(J Psychopharmacol 2013;27:451–8)