Research confirms chocolate makes you happy
But does it make you happier than running, Nutella or peanut butter?
Research studies published in 2018, show there might be health benefits from eating certain types of dark chocolate – minimally 70% cacao, 30% organic cane sugar.
Suggested benefits include positive effects on cognition, anti-inflammation, stress, cholesterol, mood, memory, immunity and other beneficial effects.
A summary of some of the reports and my non-scientific analysis follows:
Flavanols in dark chocolate are said to increase blood flow to the brain, promote formation of new neurons and improve or enhance connections between neurons.
Some research studies find that eating dark chocolate may improve brain function and help prevent neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
The findings of a small 2018 study found that flavanols present in dark chocolate may enhance neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganise itself, particularly in response to injury and disease.
It is widely acknowledged that cacao is a major source of flavonoids which are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
Stress levels & blood pressure
The flavanols in dark chocolate stimulate nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate, or widen, which improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Dark chocolate contains certain compounds, such as polyphenols and theobromine that may lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the body and increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Doctors often refer to LDL cholesterol as “bad cholesterol” and HDL cholesterol as “good cholesterol.”
In August 2019, a study led by University College London (UCL) was published that looked at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders, found that eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.
The study also found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 per cent lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all.
The sample of chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate, of any kind, not just dark, were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat chocolate at all.
However, researchers found no significant link between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms.
Principally (and similar to ‘runner’s high’), chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis. It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating people’s moods.
Experimental evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor, not just the ingredients present.
My non-scientific analysis
The research studies reveal that eating chocolate makes people happy, regardless of cocoa per cent, but higher than 70% cacoa has additional health benefits.
Comparing different chocolates with Running, Nutella and Peanut Butter:
|Per 100g||Energy||Carbs||-of which sugars||Fat||Protein|
|90% cocoa Lindt Excellence Supreme Dark Chocolate||592 kcal||14g||7g||55g||10g|
|85% cocoa Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate||584 kcal||19g||11g||46g||12.5g|
|85% cocoa Green & Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate||607 kcal||24g||14g||50g||10g|
|70% cocoa Green & Blacks Organic Dark Chocolate||580 kcal||36g||29g||42g||9.1g|
|Grenade Carb Killa Protein Spread Milk Chocolate||521 kcal||35g||5.6g||38g||20g|
|Grenade Carb Killa Protein Spread Hazel Nutter||533 kcal||34g||5.6g||40g||20g|
|Pip & Nut Smooth Almond Butter||632 kcal||7.5g||4.6g||54g||27g|
|Meridian Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter||596 kcal||11.6g||5.9g||46g||29.6g|
In the argument for happiness, nutritional values do not provide any conclusive data.
However, based on all evidence reviewed, it seems that running combined with whatever else makes you happy will give you a double shot of good vibes.