Many of us may be able to relate to feeling better when we eat dark chocolate. Several of it’s constituents have known positive effects on mood. These include theobromine and tryptophan, the precursor to our feel good neurotransmitter serotonin. However, new research has shown another way in which dark chocolate enhances mood – by changing our microbiome. This community of bacteria, archae, yeasts and other organisms that reside mainly in our gut profoundly affects our mood and immune system as well as our digestion.
A randomised controlled trial, to be published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry in January 2022 showed a positive benefit to mood for the lucky participants that had to eat 30g of 85% dark chocolate daily for three weeks. This group also showed increased microbial diversity, one of the hallmarks of a healthy microbiome. These findings indicate that good quality dark chocolate has prebiotic effects and thus may improve negative emotional states via the gut brain axis. The chocolate munchers increased their levels of Blautia obeum, a commensal (beneficial) bacteria thought to play an important role in maturation of the microbiome in kids. In some studies it also shows anti-inflammatory and insulin-sensitising effects.
Before you tuck in with abandon, remember that these effects were with dark chocolate of 85% cocoa solids. There are also many other prebiotic foods that support microbial diversity. Our microbiome footprint differs hugely from person to person. Foods and supplements that help one individual may have no positive benefit whatsoever on others.
If you would like to find out more about your microbiome health, please get in touch to discuss the GI Ecologix functional gut test we use in clinic. As well as unhelpful bacteria, yeasts and parasites, the test includes an assessment of multiple beneficial bacteria, like the chocolate-loving Blautia obeum.
Looks like this person needs to try some 85% chocolate!
If you would like more information about the services we offer, including testing, please get in touch.