This is not another research about the benefits of chocolate, although those are always popular. Scientists found that some foods contain ingredients that are very similar in their composition to the drugs containing valproic acid, commonly used by people with mood swings as mood stabilizers. One of those foods is, no surprise there, chocolate. But the best news from this research is that there are many other foods with similar effects.
What is in flavor?
Dr. Karina Martinez-Mayorga from the Chemistry Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico presented her research on about 1,700 substances that create flavors of common food at the latest National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. Her theory is that some flavors are mood-enhancing because of their chemical similarity to the valproic acid. Valproic acid is sold as Depakene, Stavzor or Depakote, and is prescribed to stabilize mood of people with manic depression and similar disorders.
It is not new that various foods such as chocolate, strawberries and other comfort foods have mood-altering properties. What Martinez-Mayorga and her team wanted to identify is a chemical compound that balances mood swings, improves mental alertness, delays old-age related memory loss and maintains our cognitive health.
Mood balancing ingredients
Scientists screened chemical structures of about 1,700 chemical ingredients that give flavors to the food, for similarities to existing antidepressants and drugs with antidepressant effect. The best result so far (the project is ongoing) is seen with valproic acid. The team plans to start testing the theory about the flavor/mood link in practical tests soon. They are hoping to be able to offer dietary recommendations or suggestions for a new food supplements with positive mood effects.
While food will never replace prescribed antidepressive drugs, it might be useful to know what is it in some foods that makes them so great to munch on when we are feeling low. And while we know about chocolate, green tea and strawberries, we could always use more mood-enhancing foods.
The research was funded by Robertet Flavors, Inc., and the State of Florida Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.