Feeling Stressed? Reach for This Sweet Treat

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Dark Chocolate BarThis article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

A new study out of Swinburne University has confirmed what we’ve long known to be true: Chocolate makes you happy and washes away your worries — dark chocolate, specifically.

The study, published in the May issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, aimed to examine the polyphenols found in cocoa and their influence, if any, on cognitive function and mood.

In the randomized, double-blind study, healthy, middle-aged participants were given a dark chocolate drink mix standardized to contain either 500, 250 or zero milligrams of polyphenols (placebo) in a parallel-group design. Each participant consumed their assigned mix once daily for 30 days.

Using the Bond-Lader Visual Analogue Scale to evaluate mood and the Cognitive Drug Research system to measure cognition, participants were tested at baseline and again after receiving the cocoa mixture for 30 days.

Researchers found that those who received the higher dose of standardized polyphenols from the dark chocolate mixture significantly increased self-rated calmness and feelings of contentedness, while those who consumed the placebo reported little to no difference. Cognition remained unaffected for both groups.

The polyphenols found in dark chocolate target and interact with brain receptors associated with anxiety response. In fact, it is believed that these are the same receptors targeted by many common anti-anxiety medications, according to the study’s authors.

Lead author of the study, Matthew Pase, noted, “anecdotally, chocolate is often linked to mood enhancement… this clinical trial is perhaps the first to scientifically demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood.”

Pase recommends reaching for a dark chocolate that contains a high concentration of cocoa. “The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate, the more polyphenols the chocolate will contain,” he said. But don’t go crazy — just one to two small squares will do.

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