The aim of the present study was to investigate whether ingestion of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate improved salivary cortisol levels and subjective mood states in adults recruited from a health and social care setting. Twenty-six participants ingested 25 g/day of a high polyphenol dark chocolate (containing 500 mg of total flavonoids) or a similar amount of a control dark chocolate containing negligible flavonoids for four weeks. Twenty-four-hour salivary glucocorticoid levels (cortisol and cortisone) were measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and subjective mood was assessed using a validated Positive Affect and Negative Affect Schedule. Total daily cortisol, morning cortisol, and the cortisol/cortisone ratio were significantly reduced (p
< 0.001) after ingestion of only the high polyphenol dark chocolate. There were no significant differences between groups for overall scores for positive affect and negative affect. No changes were observed after the control dark chocolate, or any other parameter measured. In conclusion, the findings from this small-scale study indicate lowering of salivary cortisol levels following polyphenol-rich dark chocolate in adults recruited from a health and social care setting. Such changes may be attributable to their ability to inhibit 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 activity and warrant further investigation.
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