Cocoa Polyphenols And Mood

Three bars of chocolate in a shopping trolley. Chocolate is rich in cocoa polyphenols.
By Grant Cochrane. Courtesy of

Chocolate has a potency, not only for its flavour but for its health properties. It is well established that cocoa and chocolate are packed with a variety of compounds including a wide range of amines and amino acids with biogenic and mood improving properties. The following have all been identified: serotonin, tryptophan, phenylethylamine, tyrosine, tryptamine and tyramine. However, these are not what are creating the new news at the moment ! 

What is causing great interest at the moment are the polyphenols, which come from cocoa or chocolate, and have the proscribed properties. Most of the research indicates cardiovascular health benefits as in improved platelet function and reduced blood pressure, improvements in carbohydrate metabolism, lipid content and profiles, even cognition. It’s mood which seems to have received short thrift but has been reviewed recently (Katz et al., 2011; Scholey and Owen, 2013). Two previous posts have looked at cocoa polyphenols in relation to health and cognition.

Eating chocolate has been a favourite treat for many but is there research which provides the evidence for improving mood or even reducing scores associated with fatigue in healthy individuals or those suffering fatigue-related illnesses ?

Animal models, especially the forced swimming test used to investigate the behaviour of rats have been tested (Messaoudi et al., 2008). Two doses of cocoa polyphenols reduced the time for immobility following sub-chronic treatment. However, can depression in rats be truly measured ? A controlled study using doses of 520mg and 994mg of cocoa flavanols in a human study was said to improve mood compared to a control of low flavanol dosage (Scholey et al., 2010).

Feeding of polyphenol rich chocolate was also found to improve the feelings in subjects who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). In this 8 week study, the Childer Fatigue Scale (p=0.01) was tested by comparing feeding of the high polyphenol chocolate with one of much lower content. The latter product produced lower scoring and this was backed-up by similar results using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (Sathyapalan et al., 2010).


Katz, D.L., Doughty, K., Ali, A. (2011) Cocoa and Chocolate in Human health and Disease. Antioxidants and Redox Signaling. 15(10) pp. 2779-2811
Messaoudi, M.; Bisson, J.F.; Nejdi, A.; Rozan, P.; Javelot, H. (2008) Antidepressant-like effects of a cocoa polyphenolic extract in Wistar-Unilever rats. Nutr. Neuroscience 11 (6) pp. 269-76
Sathyapalan, T.; Beckett, S.; Rigby, A.S.; Mellor, D.D.; Atkin, S.L. (2010) High cocoa polyphenol-rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutr. J. 9 pp.55
Scholey, A.B.; French, S.J.; Morris, P.J.; Kennedy, D.O.; Milne, A.L.; Haskell, C.F. (2010) Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. J. Psychopharmacology 24 (10) pp. 1505-1514
Scholey, A.B.; Owen, L. (2013) Effect of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutr. Rev., 71(10), pp. 665-681

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