AAT Bioquest

An Increase in Plasma Homovanillic Acid with Cocoa Extract Consumption Is Associated with the Alleviation of Depressive Symptoms in Overweight or Obese Adults

It is easy to think disorders such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and depression are the biggest health concerns facing many societies today. In general, this is true, but often times these conditions are brought on by something much more difficult to deal with: obesity. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle combined with a global food production system not based on nutrition and a lack of public awareness about healthy living has created a situation where obesity, not starvation, is one of the biggest problems facing the world of public health. However, for many people, the solution of "diet and exercise" is not as readily applied as for others, and this has led researchers to search for more novel ways to approach the problem. For example, obesity has been shown to increase depression among people, and this depression often leads to poor habits which worsen the situation. As such, some research has been done on trying to alleviate these symptoms to help individuals feel better about themselves so that they can develop the will and energy needed to lead healthier lifestyles.

One of the approaches that has been taken has been to look at how certain foods affect peoples' psychological states. For example, chocolate is well-known to help improve moods and to bring on feelings of happiness and elation. And while chocolate as it is sold in most markets is high in fat and sugar, the effect of positivity has caused some scientists to look into what the psychological effects are of cocoa and whether or not it could be used as an effective treatment of certain conditions. The study conducted by Baraibar et al. did exactly this by looking at the effects of cocoa extract consumption -as part of an energy restricted diet- on the moods and behaviors of obese individuals. To do this, they performed an experiment that monitored the changes in certain compounds and substances associated with depressive symptoms. One of these substances was monoamine oxidase (MAO) whose malfunction is associated with conditions ranging from attention deficit disorder to depression, schizophrenia, and substance abuse. As a measurement tool, the Amplite Fluorimetric Monoamine Oxidase Assay Kit was used largely because its robust red fluorescence allows for clear and accurate readings of MAO. As this assay kit can be adapted and applied in different settings, researchers did not need to worry about results being affected by the environment.

The results of the study indicated that cocoa extract can help reduce depressive symptoms when consumed within an energy restricted diet. This represents a novel way to approach the treatment of obesity by focusing not only on nutrition and exercise, but by also addressing the psychological components of the disease. Armed with the accuracy of tools such as the Amplite Fluorimetric Monoamine Oxidase Assay Kit, the research team was able to make a significant contribution to the field of research surrounding obesity, and may contribute new approaches to treatments that may prove even more effective.



  1. Ibero-Baraibar, Idoia, et al. "An increase in plasma homovanillic acid with cocoa extract consumption is associated with the alleviation of depressive symptoms in overweight or obese adults on an energy restricted diet in a randomized controlled trial." The Journal of nutrition 146.4 (2016): 897S-904S.

Original created on July 21, 2017, last updated on July 21, 2017
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