Dark chocolate ‘reduces stress and inflammation’

Consuming dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (a minimum of 70 per cent) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity, according to new research by the Loma Linda University in California.

The flavonoids found in cacao are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health.

This is the first study to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health in human subjects.

Participants were given an EEG (brain scan) thirty minutes after consuming 48 grams of dark chocolate. The results show that cacao consumption up-regulates cellular immune response and genes involved in neural signaling and sensory perception – the latter potentially associated with increased brain plasticity.

Lee Berk, the study’s lead author, said: ‘For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content – the more sugar, the happier we are. This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.’

Berk says the studies require further investigation, specifically to determine the significance of these effects for immune cells and the brain in larger study populations.