The chocolate. The substitute of love. The sinful pleasure. The so-called vegetable prozac. They are popular ideas, but what does science say about it?
We knew that phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter released by chocolate, induces the secretion of dopamine, another neurotransmitter responsible for the ability to desire something and to repeat a behavior that causes pleasure.
It also induces the production of norepinephrine and oxytocin, chemical messengers of sexual desire. It also contains anandamide, another neurotransmitter that activates the secretion of dopamine and produces euphoric effects similar to those of marijuana. But now experimental studies with humans have been published.
So, now that it is the first time that the effect on human subjects has been studied to determine how cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health can improve with the consumption of dark chocolate, we can say that the findings of two ( 1 and 2 ) studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego show that consuming dark chocolate (which has a high concentration of cocoa, minimum 70% cocoa, 30% sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, state of courage, memory and immunity. According to Lee S. Berk, leader of the research:
For years, we have analyzed the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the point of view of sugar content: the more sugar, the happier we are. This is the first time we have observed the impact of large amounts of cocoa in doses as small as a chocolate bar of regular size in humans for short or long periods of time. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cocoa, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects.
Berk has also qualified that the studies require further investigation, specifically to determine the importance of these effects for the larger immune and brain cells larger sample sizes.