Scientists have confirmed what deep down, we already knew: dark chocolate makes you feel better.
While anecdotally, dark chocolate can do wonders for your mood, this is one of the first studies (or even the first) to study the relationship between chocolate and mood enhancement. Matthew Pase from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia was looking at a class of nutrients called polyphenols, a structural class of mainly natural, but also synthetic organic chemicals. They were focusing on how polyphenols affect the cognitive capacity of participants.
Seventy-two healthy men and women aged 40-65 years took part in the study, receiving a dark chocolate drink mix with 500mg, 250mg or 0mg of cocoa polyphenols, all presented in identical packages. While there was no significant difference in cognitive abilities, researchers noticed a mood improvement in participants who received higher quantities of chocolate. Specifically, those who drank the high dose concentration of cocoa polyphenols reported greater calmness and contentedness than either of the other drink mixes.
At this point, it has to be said that small quantities of dark chocolate are sufficient for the effect - eating more will just make you put on some weight. Furthermore, chocolate’s health benefits have been shown to be overstated. For example, it has been claimed that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, but there is no research to back that claim up. Even the effect of chocolate on body weight is unclear. A concern is that excessive consumption of dark chocolate may promote high calorie intake and weight gain, but that is still debated.
I guess the takeaway is pretty simple: chocolate can help boost your mood, but don't abuse.
This research was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.