Nov. 13, 2009 -- Those stress-induced chocolate cravings may be justified after all. A new study shows that eating dark chocolate may lower levels of stress hormones in people feeling stressed out.
Researchers found that eating the equivalent of one average-sized dark chocolate candy bar (1.4 ounces) each day for two weeks reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines in highly stressed people.
The findings add to a growing number of recently discovered potential health benefits of dark chocolate. For example, cocoa has been found to be rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been linked to a number of health benefits.
Researchers are also investigating other compounds in dark chocolate that may offer other health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure, and improved mood.
In the study, researchers looked at the effects of eating 1.4 ounces (40 grams) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks on blood and urine measures of stress in 30 healthy adults. Half of the chocolate was eaten midmorning and the other half was eaten midafternoon.
The participants’ anxiety levels were determined at the start of the study, and blood and urine samples were collected and analyzed at the beginning and end of the two-week study.
The results showed that eating dark chocolate daily reduced stress hormone levels in those who had high anxiety levels.
Researchers also say dark chocolate appeared to have beneficial effects on the participants’ metabolism and microbial activity in the gut.
The study appears in the Journal of Proteome Research and was conducted by researchers at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.