Dark chocolate may improve mood and help to ward off depression

Depression affects more than 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and is the leading global cause of disability.  Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, according to a study published in Depression and Anxiety.

The study looked at whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders.  A collaborative group of researchers from the University of London, University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada assessed data from 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Participants’ chocolate consumption was assessed against their scores on the Patient Health Questionnaire, which assesses depressive symptoms.  A range of other factors including height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, smoking and chronic health problems were also taken into account to ensure the study only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.

The researchers found that individuals who reported eating any dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70% lower chance of reporting depressive symptoms than those who reported not eating chocolate at all. The chocolate consumers who ate the most chocolate (of any kind, not just dark) were also less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat chocolate at all.  No correlation between any non‐dark chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms was found.

Chocolate is widely reported to have mood‐enhancing properties and several mechanisms for a relationship between chocolate and mood have been proposed.  Chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis. It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating people’s moods.  This study further suggested that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced risk of depression.

The reason that dark chocolate seems to work better in improving the mood may be that dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: Sarah E. Jackson, Lee Smith, Joseph Firth, Igor Grabovac, Pinar Soysal, Ai Koyanagi, Liang Hu, Brendon Stubbs, Jacopo Demurtas, Nicola Veronese, Xiangzhu Zhu, Lin Yang. Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross‐sectional survey of 13,626 US adultsDepression and Anxiety, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/da.22950

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