Barry Callebaut welcomes new cocoa anti-depressant link

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chocolate Caffeine Cocoa bean

Barry Callebaut is a step closer to boasting about the antidepressant properties of cocoa on its product labels after a study funded by the company found that it could have a mood-lifting effect.

The Zurich-based chocolate manufacturer has been backing a raft of research into the beneficial properties of cocoa, with the ultimate aim of making health claims on its products.

This latest study, published in journal Nutritional Neuroscience​, found that cocoa polyphenolic extract, through its active constituents, exerts antidepressant-like effects in tests on rats that are said to reflect depressive disorders in humans.

However, the researchers acknowledged that the extracts do contain other substances such as caffeine and said further research was needed.

Cocoa polyphenolic extract is a complex compound prepared from non-roasted cocoa beans containing high levels of flavonoids and Barry Callebaut claims its Acticoa brand of chocolate is one of the richest natural sources of cocoa polyphenols.

The chocolate company has already gathered research results to support claims about Acticoa, including links to brain health and anti-ageing.

Now, commenting on this latest study, it said in a statement: “Cocoa extract, as a natural source of several possible mood-lifting components, seems to be a promising alternative for existing antidepressant agents.”

A spokeswoman for Barry Callebaut told that although it is some way off, it wants to add such mood-lifting health claims to its product labels.

She said: “The study is looking at cocoa in general but it used a product made and prepared by Barry Callebaut.

“Barry Callebaut wants to make claims on final products but the EU claims regulations say that an effect is only proven if enough scientific substantiation is provided.

“We are only at the beginning.

“Studies are ongoing but we need more clinical research in different health domains to really prove these benefits.”

The study, conducted by the French ETAP-Applied Ethology, Centre de Recherche en Pharmacologie, Cancérologie & Pathologies Humaines et Nutrition-Santé’ in Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, said that depression affects about 12 per cent of the world population and natural substances such as flavonoids have been tested to cure such disorders.

The anti-depressant-like effect of cocoa polyphenolic extract was evaluated using the forced swimming test in rats in which they display a range of behaviours, in particular immobility.

This immobility displayed by rodents when subjected to unavoidable stress such as forced swimming, is thought to reflect a state of despair or lowered mood, which, in turn are thought to reflect depressive disorders in humans.

However, as cocoa polyphenolic extract also contains caffeine, magnesium and other minerals, the authors said it would be interesting to understand their synergistic effect with cocoa polyphonols.

They concluded that further work is required “to identify the active component with antidepressant-like activity in the cocoa poyphenol extract that might be useful in the prevention and therapy of mood disorders”​.

Source: Nutritional Neuroscience​December 2008, Volume 11, Number 6, pp. 269-276(8). Antidepressant-like effects of a cocoa polyphenolic extract in Wistar-Unilever rats”​Authors: M. Messaoudi, J.F. Bisson, A. Nejdi, P. Rozan, H. Javelot

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