Consumption of 85% cocoa dark chocolate improves mood in association with gut microbial changes in healthy adults: a randomized controlled trial

J Nutr Biochem. 2022 Jan;99:108854. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108854. Epub 2021 Sep 14.


Dark chocolate has long been recognized for its mood-altering properties; however, the evidence regarding the emotional effects of daily dark chocolate intake is limited. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the effects of dark chocolate intake on mood in everyday life, with special emphasis on the gut-brain axis. Two different dark chocolates (85% and 70% cocoa content) were tested in this study. In a randomized controlled trial, healthy adults (20-30 y) consumed either 30 g/d of 85% cocoa chocolate (DC85, n=18); 70% cocoa chocolate (DC70, n=16); or no chocolate (control group, CON; n=14); for 3 weeks. Mood states were measured using the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). Daily consumption of dark chocolate significantly reduced negative affect in DC85, but not in DC70. To assess the association between the mood-altering effects of dark chocolate and the gut microbiota, we performed fecal 16S rRNA sequencing analysis for the DC85 and CON groups. Gut microbial diversity was significantly higher in DC85 than CON (P<.05). Blautia obeum levels were significantly elevated and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii levels were reduced in DC85 compared to CON (P<.05). Furthermore, we found that the observed changes in negative affect scores were negatively correlated with diversity and relative abundance of Blautia obeum (P<.05). These findings indicate that dark chocolate exerts prebiotic effects, as evidenced by its ability to restructure the diversity and abundance of intestinal bacteria; thus, it may improve negative emotional states via the gut-brain axis.

PMID:34530112 | DOI:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2021.108854