Date of Award

Spring 2024

Degree Type



Public Health

Director of Thesis

Dr. Michael D. Wirth

Second Reader

Dr. Pamela J. Wright


Chocolate has been a part of the human diet for centuries, but while it was once considered a healthy food, it is now seen as a dessert and unhealthy treat. It is known that chocolate contains polyphenols, flavonoids, and minerals that can affect body functioning. To determine the extent to which chocolate plays a role in health, a literature review was performed by searching the PubMed, CINAHL, and Web of Science databases for peer-reviewed articles published between 2004 and 2024. Of the 14 included studies, the health effects of chocolate fell into three overarching categories: neurological effects, including mental health, cardiometabolic effects, and other effects. For most outcomes, dark chocolate conveyed the strongest health benefits. This is likely because dark chocolate contains the highest level of cocoa, and, therefore, the highest levels of all the healthy chemicals and minerals within raw cocoa. Dark chocolate was found to improve vision, fatigue, brain health, depressive symptoms, cardiovascular functioning, weight loss, gastrointestinal health, and bone health. When consumed in moderation, there is evidence a controlled consumption of chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can be beneficial for a person's health. Future studies about the preventative effects of chocolate on chronic disease could be a way to expand the field.

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© 2024, Erika A. Pierce