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Chocolate Boosts Calmness and Contentedness, Study Reveals

Update Date: May 03, 2013 10:29 AM EDT

Feeling tense and disgruntled? Pop a piece of chocolate to feel better, a new study suggests.

Scientists at the Swinburne University of Technology recently discovered that polyphenols in dark chocolate boost calmness and contentedness.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring chemicals in plants and are a basic component of the human diet.  Previous studies revealed that these compounds could reduce disease-causing oxidative stress, and benefit mental wellbeing.

"Anecdotally, chocolate is often linked to mood enhancement," lead researcher Matthew Pase said in a news release.

"This clinical trial is perhaps the first to scientifically demonstrate the positive effects of cocoa polyphenols on mood," he added.

The latest study involved 72 health men and women aged 40 to 65 years.  The participants received a dark chocolate drink mix standardized to contain either 500 mg of cocoa polyphenols, 250 mg of cocoa polyphenols or 0 mg of cocoa polyphenols.  Researchers gave the drink mixes to participants in identical packaging so that both the experimenters and participants were unaware of which treatment they were receiving.

Participants were then asked to drink their mixed chocolate drinks once a day for 30 days.

The study found that after 30 days, participants who drank the high does concentration of cocoa polyphenols reported greater calmness and contentedness than participants who drank either of the other drink mixes.

However, the study did not find any evidence to suggest that cocoa polyphenols can improve cognitive performance. Furthermore, only participants who drank the highest amount of polyphenols (500 mg per day) reported any significant positive effects, whereas participants who consumed a moderate amount (250 mg per day) reported no significant effects.

The findings are published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

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