Serotonin And Chocolate

As living creatures surrounded by umpteenth factors in our environment, we have, at several moments, shown concerns regarding how our environment sways our normal body functioning. Whether it is the climate or pathogens surrounding us, or the least, it is the noise in our workplace. 

The common notion is that our environment severely affects our body functions. When discussing the environmental factors affecting us, we should consider food apart. It is exciting, and sometimes it leaves us baffled how common, day-to-day used ingredients in our food can severely affect our body functioning. 

In the same way, the simple ingredients used in chocolate, such as cocoa, have chemical compounds that can manipulate the routine neurochemical signalling in our brains.

What we need to know about serotonin and chocolate

In everyday life, we eat chocolates, and after getting the first bite of chocolate, we observe changes in our mood. If we were anxious about something, we suddenly became less anxious. If we were sad, we became happy, and if we were in a hustle, we calmed down instantly. 

The secret behind these changes in our mood and positively affecting our health is in the ingredients of the chocolate. Our body has various neurotransmitters that are used for chemical signalling purposes. Serotonin is one such neurotransmitter. Serotonin plays a critical role in controlling one’s mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, etc.1  

A lack of serotonin causes depression, anxiety, mania and other mood disorders.1 A regular or increased serotonin level can help you feel good and happy. When it comes to chocolate, chocolate consists of a compound called Tryptophan.2 Tryptophan is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Therefore, high chocolate consumption can increase the tryptophan level, directly resulting in an increased serotonin level, and the rest is what you think it would be!

What is serotonin

Serotonin, chemically known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), is a neurotransmitter in our body. It is a monoamine neurotransmitter. In the human body, serotonin also functions as a hormone.1 Serotonin, as a neurotransmitter, carries chemical messages between nerve cells in our brain and throughout our body. These chemical signals, as a whole, function to control vital functions of the body. Such as mood, learning, sexual behaviour, hunger, body temperature, and memory.1 

As mentioned earlier, it is produced from tryptophan. Tryptophan in the presence of tryptophan hydroxylase is hydroxylated to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and in the second step, this 5-HT is decarboxylated via L-aromatic amino acid decarboxylase to form 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT). In this two-step process of hydroxylation and decarboxylation, serotonin is formed. 

Serotonin is synthesized and stored in the presynaptic neuron. Upon the arrival of the action potential, this serotonin is released from the presynaptic neuron and enters the synaptic cleft. Here serotonin acts on the 5-HT receptors. 

Serotonin also binds to the autoreceptors. This binding to the auto-receptors results in a negative feedback response. SERT transporters that are highly-selective serotonin transporters transport the excess serotonin from the synaptic cleft to the presynaptic neuron. In the presynaptic neurons, serotonin is recycled to the presynaptic vesicles.3 From here, it is again released when the action potential arrives. After acting on the concerned receptors, serotonin gets involved in regulating functions that it is supposed to do. 

What is chocolate

Chocolate is a well-known delicacy loved by everyone. Chocolate is derived from the fruit of Theobroma cacao, also known as the cacao tree. This tree is native to Central and South America. After its popularity, plantations were done in other parts of the world. Now, Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire account for 80% of the world's cacao production

Chocolate has a bitter taste when it is in crude or raw form. After fermenting, drying, and adding sugar, it tastes like the perfect delicacy in the world and has an unmatched taste. According to FCIA (Foreign Credit Insurance Association), “Fine Chocolate” contains Cacao liquor, Cacao butter (optional), lecithin, vanilla (optional), and milk fats and solids. The remaining or additional additives can be added later on.4 

Chocolate is used in making beverages, confectionaries, and bakery products. It is used as a flavouring agent in many cuisines. Because of the presence of carbohydrates, it is a good source of instant energy.5

 Chocolate can help us to stay healthy and can help to improve our memory and math. It can also help maintain our moods. Chocolate lowers our cholesterol level and blood pressure level. It can stimulate the release of endorphins, essential in preventing depression and other mental disorders. Overall, chocolate has positive health benefits for us.6

Chocolate’s link to serotonin

Chocolate and serotonin can help prevent depression, mania, and other mood disorders, increase one’s learning and memory and make one happy.

Can eating chocolate affect serotonin?

As discussed earlier, chocolate has a compound that is the active precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Tryptophan’s presence in the chocolate and its role in producing serotonin and consequently increasing the serotonin level is essential. High chocolate consumption can increase the serotonin level, resulting in maintaining our mental health and providing health benefits. Therefore, we can consider that chocolate consumption can affect serotonin levels and help prevent depressive symptoms with other mood disorders.

How much chocolate is enough 

The whole article discusses the benefits of chocolate on our serotonin levels and how it changes our moods every time we eat it. However, the critical question should be how much chocolate is sufficient for one’s needs? It is an important notion to wonder about, but according to studies, the recommended dose of dark chocolate is 1 to 3 ounces or 30 to 60 grams per day. If someone is taking more than the recommended dose, their calorie intake has been increased, and they are replacing this mini treat with other essential and high-calorie-containing foods. 


Chocolate, a delicacy loved by everyone, has positive and impactful effects on serotonin levels and mood. Serotonin is a monoamine neurotransmitter regulating one’s moods, hunger, appetite, learning, and memory. It is synthesized in two steps in the serotonergic neurons (presynaptic neurons). The first one is hydroxylation and the second one is decarboxylation. After synthesis, it acts on the 5-HT receptors on the postsynaptic neurons and regulates the body's functions.

On the other hand, chocolate derived from the cacao tree's fruit is present in two forms. One is the crude, raw or unprocessed form where the taste is bitter. Meanwhile, the processed form of chocolate which is fermented, dried, and has sugar, is the one that gives a divine taste. In this chocolate, a compound is present, which is known as tryptophan. Tryptophan is considered to be the active precursor of serotonin. Therefore, high consumption of chocolate can cause a rise in the serotonin level and thus affect our moods and prevent depressive symptoms. A daily recommended dose of 30 to 60 grams of dark chocolate is enough. Moreover, thus, it tells us how we are unaware and do not bother with the fact that foods and ingredients present in them have such influential effects on our body functioning. 


  1. Serotonin[Internet]. Cleveland Clinic. [cited 2022 Dec 1].
  2. [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from:,also%20the%20precursor%20for%20Serotonin 
  1. Mohammad-Zadeh LF, Moses L, Gwaltney-Brant SM. Serotonin: a review. J Vet Pharmacol Ther [Internet]. 2008;31(3):187–99.
  2. Hickok K. Chocolate: History, types, production & other fun facts [Internet]. Live Science; 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 2].
  3. Myhrvold N, Blumberg N. chocolate [Internet]. In: Encyclopedia Britannica. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 2].
  4. Locke R. 20 health benefits of chocolate [Internet]. Lifehack. 2015 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Syed Sharf ud Din

Doctor of Pharmacy, University of Central Punjab

Syed Sharf ud Din is a fourth-year pharmacy student. While still in pharmacy school, he has vast interests in biopharmaceutics and pharmacy practise. With an ardent skill of writing combined with background of health sciences, he is curating perfectly designed health-related articles for the general public. He aims to continue his skills and interests in the future to contribute to breakthroughs in pharmaceutical sciences.

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