Dark Chocolate May Relieve Depression

A new study found that eating dark chocolate my have mood-enhancing properties.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Dark chocolate has a bevy of benefits from reducing heart disease to protecting your skin from the sun. Now, it seems you can add antidepressant to the list.


The first study of its kind

A new UCL-led study looked at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders and found that dark chocolate helped alleviate depression. The study is the first of its kind to examine the effect on depression and mood according to the type of chocolate consumed.

Working in collaboration with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada, the researchers evaluated data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They examined participants' chocolate consumption against the Patient Health Questionnaire scores.

The latter is a questionnaire that assesses depressive symptoms. To ensure the research only measured chocolate's influence on depression a range of other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also adjusted for.

What the researchers found was that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all. However, no significant link was found between non‐dark chocolate consumption and depression.

Reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms

"This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms," said lead author Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care).

"However further research is required to clarify the direction of causation -- it could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed.

"Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management."

This is not the first study to report that chocolate may have mood‐enhancing properties. The food contains several psychoactive ingredients which can induce feelings of euphoria.

Phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator responsible for regulating people's moods, is also found in chocolate. Last but not least, dark chocolate in particular also reports higher concentrations of flavonoids. 

Flavonoids are antioxidant chemicals which fight off of depression. As such, there are many compelling reasons for chocolate to be able to alleviate depression.

The study is published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

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