Eat dark chocolate to see the world through rose-coloured spectacles!
Are you dreaming of having a (very) good reason to eat dark chocolate during the Christmas and New Year festivities? An unpublished study is handing it to you on a plate! Cocoa could increase intestinal microbial diversity and cause a virtuous feedback loop to our brain which is seen as a sustainable “feel good” effect. Food lovers, don’t feel guilty any more!
About this article
The characteristics of mood disorders are feelings of sadness, helplessness, despair and irritability. In order to prevent and treat these disorders better, amongst other things scientific research is looking at nutrition and the intestinal microbiota, our second brain. Certain foods, such as chocolate, may regulate our mood. However, the results are often controversial. For the first time a clinical trial seeks to verify and explain the positive effects of dark chocolate on our mood. So let’s open the box together and it will be explained to you.
Dark chocolate and good humour: the scientific proof
(sidenote: Shin JH, Kim CS, Cha L, et al. Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr Biochem. 2021;99:108854. )
After three weeks the participants who consumed 85% cocoa dark chocolate showed a significant reduction in negative feelings, whereas the 70% group did not show any notable change. The effects of cocoa on our good humour therefore seems to depend on the dose consumed. Be careful, we are talking about cocoa here, the praline sweets we eat at Christmas contain less than 50%!
Intestinal microbiota and chocolate: a guilty pleasure that does some good?
The scientific study has also been able to show that 85% cocoa dark chocolate would increase the diversity of the microbial communities in the intestine. For the authors, it is the large quantities of polyphenols in the cocoa which have a positive action on the intestinal flora slowing the growth of pathogenic bacteria and encouraging the growth of those that are beneficial. If the intestine and chocolate seem to work to the benefit of our health rather than vice versa, one question remains: what is the link with our good humour? Surely the brain is the control tower for our emotions?
From intestine to brain: a communication network worth of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!
Whether via the bloodstream or neural pathways, the metabolites produced by the bacteria in the intestinal microbiota affect brain function, and indirectly our emotions via the gut-brain axis. The study also shows an association between the positive effect on mood and the presence of certain beneficial bacteria by eating 85% cocoa dark chocolate. For the authors this positive effect would be mediated by changes in the diversity and abundance of certain bacteria in the intestinal microbiota. This study therefore suggests a (sidenote: Prebiotics Prebiotics are specific indigestible dietary fibres which have effects that are favourable to health. They are used selectively by the beneficial micro-organisms in the microbiota of individuals. Specific products combining probiotics and prebiotics are known as symbiotics. Gibson GR, Hutkins R, Sanders ME, et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;14(8):491-502. Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):1021. ) effect for cocoa on the diversity of the intestinal microbiota and gives an excuse to succumb to this chocolate temptation in moderation….