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Mindful Consumption of Chocolate Improves Mood

5/2/2017 2:06:41 PM
Eating can be an emotional activity. Studies have found, for example, that when people are in a better mood, they choose more nutritious foods. Food can also be used as a form of self-medication to regulate emotions. Chocolate is one of the most commonly craved foods, possibly because of its pleasurable effects on mood. A 2006 study by Macht and Dettmer found that participants experienced a more positive mood after eating a chocolate bar than after eating an apple or nothing at all. Another study found chocolate to be more effective than water at improving mood after watching a sad movie.
 
To further explore the interaction between chocolate consumption and mood, researchers at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania conducted a randomized, controlled trial. The study, published by Meier et al. in Appetite (2016), evaluated the effects of food (chocolate vs. crackers) as well as mindfulness (mindful-consumption vs. non-mindful consumption) in 258 college students. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups, instructed to eat a piece of chocolate or crackers in a mindful or non-mindful way.
 
The chocolate groups received 5 pieces of Blommers Appalachian Gold Milk Chocolate Discs (14g). The cracker groups received 5 Carr’s Plain Table Water Crackers. The mindfulness groups listened to a recording that instructed them to eat the chocolate or crackers slowly, purposely, and mindfully. The non-mindfullness groups were simply asked to eat and then wait for further instructions. Participants completed a number of questionnaires before and after food consumption. The questionnaires evaluated mood, positive affect, satisfaction, sadness, mindfulness, and food liking.
 
Consumption of chocolate, regardless of mindfulness, was significantly associated with higher positive mood than consumption of crackers. In addition, the condition that combined chocolate with mindfulness produced significantly higher positive mood than any of the other conditions. The authors conclude that chocolate may improve mood, but its effect is enhanced when combined with mindfulness.
 
Reference: Meier BP, Noll SW, Molokwu OJ. The sweet life: The effect of mindful chocolate consumption on mood. Appetite. 2017;10821-27.