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Mood foods: Researchers uncover why some food flavours affect disposition

Chocolate, berries, and tea could be naturally modifying your mood, according to new research that reveals certain compounds found in foods bear ‘striking’ similarity to chemicals used in mood stabilising drugs.

The study – presented at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society – analysed more than 1,700 natural compounds that help to make up the flavour of common foods. In particular the team focused on foods that are suggested to have mood enhancing effects.

Led by Dr Karina Martinez-Mayorga from the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, USA, the research team compared the physicochemical and structural properties of the flavour molecules, with approved antidepressants, marketed drugs, and agents with reported antidepressant activity – finding that many flavour compounds are similar to valproic acid, a widely used prescription mood-stabilizing compound.

As a result, the team believes many flavours have the potential to act as mood modulators: “Molecules in chocolate, a variety of berries and foods containing omega-3 fatty acids have shown positive effects on mood,” noted Martinez-Mayorga.



“The large body of evidence that chemicals in chocolate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, teas and certain foods could well be mood-enhancers encourages the search for other mood modulators in food,” she said.