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Dark Chocolate Eases Emotional Stress

Posted Dec 11 2009 10:54am

Chocolate is often eaten for pleasureand now new research has found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day can reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. The study is published in the online Journal of Proteome Researchby the American Chemical Society.

The 30 study participants ate just under the equivalent of a regular sized Hershey’s barand samples of urine a blood plasma were drawn at the beginningmid-pointand end of the two-week study. The stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines were reduced in the samples of the participants who ate dark chocolate.

The study adds to the latest research of the health benefits of moderate intakes of dark chocolateincluding reduction in heart disease and decreasing the risk of cancer. Polyphenolsa type of antioxidant compoundis the key beneficial ingredient in dark chocolate.

Dark chocolate is produced by adding fat and sugar to cacaobut without milk as an additive. Because it is has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolateit is a rich source of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acidboth of which have cardioprotective effects and are also present in green tea.

Previous research into the psychological effects of chocolate has found that it can increase the production of brain compounds serotonin and endorphinswhich reduce stress and lead to feelings of euphoria. One study found that the savoring of dark chocolate stimulates all regions of the brain more intenselyand lasts four times longer than the feeling of excitement one feels during passionate kissing. A more recent study found relief from symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome with consumption of dark chocolate.

The average American eats about 12 pounds of chocolate a year.

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