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Students will try to find out how our food affects mood

Ellen Beardmore stressed planning her wedding
Ellen Beardmore stressed planning her wedding
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Every day is an education for Lancashire student Lindsay Hodgson.

After battling breast cancer in 2009, she was inspired to return to education and is hoping her studies will help others.

Stack of broken dark chocolate bar pieces on a wooden background. Horizontal

Stack of broken dark chocolate bar pieces on a wooden background. Horizontal

A nutrition and health scholar at Edge Hill University, Lindsay is investigating how food affects mood in a bid to help others going through similar situations.

She says: “When I was diagnosed, I wondered why it had happened – was it because of something I was eating? Was there anything I could do to make it better?

“There was so much conflicting information online, and I wanted to learn more about the research process so I could try to help other people going through the same thing.”

The adult returner has won a coveted Summer Studentship from the Nutrition Society and will be working on an eight week research project with the aim of discovering if there is a link between certain types of food and anxiety levels, supervised by Edge Hill’s Dr Catherine Tsang, senior lecturer in human nutrition and health.

Lindsay Hodgson

Lindsay Hodgson

Lindsay adds: “ My 23 year old daughter suffers from anxiety, and one day she told me that on the days when she eats well, her levels of anxiety are lower.”

As part of her studies she will be working with Belgian chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, which has developed polyphenol-rich dark chocolate and placebos for the research volunteers.

A team of 30 volunteers have been split into two groups. One group will be given 25g of the polyphenol-rich dark chocolate (the equivalent of a couple of squares of chocolate) daily over a four week period, and the other will get the placebo chocolate.

Samples of saliva will be taken so Lindsay can measure the levels of cortisol before, during and after the four week process and the volunteers will also be asked to fill in a questionnaire at various points to measure their mood.

Lindsay hopes the research will show that levels of cortisol will reduce and the mood scales will improve in those who eat the dark chocolate, and there will be no change in the other group.

Her research could help uncover whether eating polyphenol-rich dark chocolate can help boost mood and help people feel better mentally. She says:“I was so shocked when I found out I had been awarded a Summer Studentship but I’m really excited.

“I have Catherine working with me so I know I will have all the support I need. I’m pleased to have such a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to working on a research project from start to finish.”