Globally, more than 264 million people experience depression. It is a major contributor to the global burden of disease and is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
A link between chocolate consumption and mood enhancement has been widely reported. Chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients that cause feelings of euphoria, as well as phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator, which may be important in regulating mood.
A 2019 study examined associations between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms. Researchers from University College London worked with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada to examine whether different types of chocolate are associated with mood disorders. They studied the results of 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, comparing chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms.
The survey measured daily chocolate consumption derived from two 24-hour dietary recalls and depressive symptoms assessed using a Patient Health Questionnaire. The study adjusted for factors such as weight, height, physical activity, education, ethnicity, household income, smoking and chronic health problems, so as not to skew the results.
The study, published in Depression and Anxiety, found that eating dark chocolate may positively affect your mood and relieve symptoms of depression.
Individuals who ate any dark chocolate in the two 24-hour periods were 70 per cent less likely to report clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who didn’t eat any chocolate. ScienceDaily notes that the top 25 per cent of chocolate consumers who ate any type pf chocolate were also less likely to experience depressive symptoms than those who ate none at all.
Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of flavonoids that other types of chocolate. These antioxidants have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which are linked to the onset of depression.
Other evidence suggests that enjoying the chocolate is an important factor in experiencing mood improvements, implying that the process of enjoying chocolate, and not just the ingredients, is important.
Dr Sarah Jackson from ULC, lead author of the study, said that while the results suggest that the consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be linked to reduced odds of relevant depressive symptoms, more research needs to be done.
She stated, “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.”
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.