Further evidence of the health benefits of chocolate has come to light in a new study - giving manufacturers yet another route into the functional food niche.
Eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day can help combat the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), according to UK researchers.
Dark chocolate has been frequently touted as a 'healthy' indulgence thanks to its high levels of polyphenols and flavanols which work to protect the body from cell damage. Sales of the product have risen as a result of its new health-conscious image and market analysts Leatherhead International say they now make up 19 per cent of global chocolate sales.
In the study, the results of which are available on the Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust website, researchers fed a group of adults 45g of specially formulated dark chocolate - containing 85 per cent cocoa and rich in polyphenols - every day for eight weeks.
The participants reported feeling less fatigued after eating the chocolate and complained of greater tiredness when fed a placebo. None of those who took part reported any weight gain as a result of the study.
Researchers believe chocolate enhances the action of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, responsible for regulating mood and sleep, which could explain why the product can alleviate CFS.
Consultant endocrinologist at the NHS Trust, Professor Steve Atkin said: "No one has examined the effects of chocolate on CFS before and so this is a very interesting and exciting result for us."
"We now hope to look at some of the other potential benefits of chocolate which is high in these natural chemicals."
Extensive research into the healthy properties of dark chocolate has already been undertaken by confectionery giants Mars and Barry Callebaut in an effort to capitalise on scientifically-proven benefits which have recently come to light.
And earlier this month, Barry Callebaut launched a website aiming to educate consumers on the science behind their cocoa processing method, Acticoa, which claims to reduce the loss of polyphenols common in ordinary manufacturing methods.