Chocolate against stress?

November 17, 2009 by  
Filed under STRESS

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chocolate_boxesChocolate has always been considered a major enemy of healthy living. But recent studies show that thre might be a good side to this dark temptation.

In the third book of the Harry Potter series ,Harry  collapsed after being  attacked by dementors on the train to Hogwarts. His teacher Prof Lupin gave him a very unusual, yet effective treatment: a chocolate bar. It might just be a story but author Joanne Rowling seems to know something about chocolates and stress.

A new researcher study published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research reveals that there might be something to the so-called chocolate therapy for emotional stress. The report continues to that eating 40 grams (about an ounce and a half) of dark chocolate a day during a period of two weeks can modify the metabolism and reduce levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed.

The Swiss and German researchers looked at 30 participants (11 men and 19 women aged 18 to 35 years) who were otherwise healthy except for stress. The levels of emotional anxiety were measured through questionnaires and urine and blood plasma samples were collected  regularly during the 14-day study period. The participants were classified according to their anxiety state and those with higher stress levels had a distinct metabolic profile based on blood and urine tests. However, daily consumption of 40 g of dark chocolate  for two weeks resulted in reduction of the stress hormone cortisol and also partially normalized stress-related differences in energy metabolism and gut microbial activities. The chocolate used in the study was Noir Intense by Nestle, which contained 74% cocoa solids. A 20 g bar was consumed as snack at midmorning and another one at midafternoon.

But what is in the chocolate that counteracts stress? It is not fully known but chocolate is known to contain antioxidants that are beneficial to heart health.

The authors conclude:

The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 g of dark chocolate during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of free living and healthy human subjects, as per variation of both host and gut microbial metabolism.

However, we shouldn’t forget that too much of a good thing can be bad. Dark chocolate may be good for our health but white chocolate is not. And remember that chocolate bars, even if dark,  still contains some sugar and fat that can be fattening and unhealthy if taken in large amounts. So remember, this and other similar studies on the benefit of chocolate do not give you the license to gorge on chocolate. Moderation is still the key to everything.

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