These are strange times we are living through, with people experiencing higher than usual symptoms of depression and anxiety.
In treating conditions like these, it is often hard to determine the root cause. In a world where a person’s health, diet, socioeconomic status, and many other factors relating to overall wellbeing all intersect, it can be really challenging to find the source of something like depression. Most agree that depression and other mental illnesses are often the result of a combination of factors, including physiology, genetics, and environment.
So, what does this have to do with chocolate?
Chocolate is one of those things that makes the health news cycle a couple of times a year, and it always seems to be for a different reason and with a different message. One minute it’s healthy for you, the next minute it’s not. One month dark chocolate will save you from depression, the next month it will cause it.
So this is the question we are going to look at today: Is there a link between dark chocolate and depression?
Once you start to really look into it, the information can be a little confusing. In fact, there is evidence pointing in both directions — that eating dark chocolate can be linked to feelings of depression. On the other hand, eating dark chocolate can help relieve people of those feelings.
Since each study draws different conclusions, we will highlight a couple so you can dig deeper if you’d like and make up your own mind.
The first one comes out of the San Diego area where researchers studied 931 men and women through a questionnaire about the participants’ diets and emotional well-being.
It showed that “people who ate an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month tested positive for possible depression, while people who ate only 5.4 servings per month did not test positive. People who ate 11.8 servings per month tested positive for probable major depression, a more severe form of the condition.”
The researchers took note of other factors present in participants’ lives (ie. weight, age, whether or not they had inflammation, etc.). And while researchers found that “intake of caffeine, fat, carbohydrates, and energy in the participants’ diets had no significant correlation with the participants’ mood,” they did keep the door open to suggest that, more so than other factors, “there may be something specific about the relationship between chocolate and one’s state of mind.”
The authors of the study concluded that “future studies are required to elucidate the foundation of the association and to determine whether chocolate has a role in depression, as cause or cure.”
As noted above, studies like these are very open-ended and researchers have much work to do before an actual cause is linked.
A second study makes the claim that “dark chocolate lowers the risk of depression,” which researchers found after looking at a cross‐sectional survey of over 13,000 US adults. It found that “people who ate dark chocolate in the past 24 hours were 70% less likely to report depression.”
The study looked at whether or not the feelings could be associated with milk chocolate and the findings were specific to dark chocolate. It is well studied and confirmed that dark chocolate contains mood-altering ingredients like caffeine and other powerful ingredients like flavanols and phenylethylamine, among others.
While their findings are preliminary, researchers said that “individuals who reported any dark chocolate consumption had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who did not report and chocolate consumption.”
Again, more research is needed but it is an interesting study with great potential benefits!
Chocolate may or may not affect depression — the same goes for sunlight, diet, and sleep. What we do know is that depression is a serious condition and any healthy activity a person can do to feel better during those times should be supported and encouraged, especially if it’s something as innocent as eating some delicious dark chocolate.
That’s probably an important lesson here. It is good to remember that if something as simple as chocolate makes you feel better, maybe it doesn’t have to be so complicated.
In other words, if you want to eat some chocolate, whether you are having a crummy day or are sadly in a deep state of depression, eat some chocolate! And don’t feel bad about it!
You can even have some extra fun with dark chocolate, and order custom chocolate delivered right to your door. Get a dark chocolate bar engraved with something cheerful for you or a friend. You can even customize the packaging so that you can keep it for a long time to come.
In the world we live in, why deny the simple, delicious, dark chocolatey things in life?