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26/04/2018 4:54 AM AEST | Updated 26/04/2018 4:55 AM AEST

Dark Chocolate Really Does Reduce Stress, Says New Research

New research has confirmed what those of us who keep emergency cookies in the freezer already know.

Dark chocolate really does reduce stress, according to two new studies from Loma Linda University in California. The findings were presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego, and show that eating dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (at least 70 per cent) also has positive effects on inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.

(We've been conducting similar research for years).

Although the benefits of the flavonoids found in chocolate are already well known, this is the first set of studies to look at the effects in humans "to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health," according to a news release.

"For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content — the more sugar, the happier we are," lead investigator Lee S. Berk, associate dean of research affairs at the School of Allied Health Professions and a researcher in psychoneuroimmunology and food science from Loma Linda University, said in a news release.

"This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects."

Chocolate is the best

AndrisTkachenko

Not only is it delicious, but dark chocolate already has a number of health benefits.

It's rich in fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, and other minerals, according to HealthLine. It's also full of antioxidants, may lower blood pressure, can improve some risk factors for heart disease, is good for your skin, and might even improve brain functioning, HealthLine added.

A Canadian study of nearly 45,000 people even found that eating chocolate could lower your risk of a stroke.

"The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are," noted Medical News Today.

But don't stuff your face in the name of health just yet.

Medical News Today points out that there are negative effects to eating chocolate, too. These can include weight gain and tooth decay due to the sugar and fat content, migraine risk, lower bone density, and there are high levels of heavy metals found in some chocolate (which are toxic to kidneys and bones).

"All in all, eating chocolate can have both health benefits and risks. As ever, moderation is key," Medical News Today writes.

Further research is needed

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images

The two new studies both looked at chocolate containing at least 70 per cent cacao.

One found that eating this type of chocolate regulates cellular immune response, neural signalling, and sensory perception. The other study found that 70 per cent cacao "enhances neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain health benefits."

However, the authors noted that further research was needed in larger study populations.

Our only question is how do we become research subjects?

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