People who eat more chocolate are more likely to be depressed than people who eat less chocolate, a new study has found.
What isn’t clear, though, is whether people who were more likely to be depressed ate more chocolate in the study—or whether chocolate itself is linked to depression.
“It’s possible chocolate has antidepressant effects and that’s why they are eating chocolate,” said Beatrice Golomb, one of the study’s researchers and an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. “I think many of us believe chocolate consumption, at least in the short term, makes us feel better.”
Some research has suggested that chocolate, made from the beans of cocoa trees, has health benefits such as lowering blood pressure. But there has been little research involving mood.
Dr. Golomb and her colleagues looked at 931 adults who weren’t taking antidepressants and didn’t have known cardiovascular disease or diabetes. (The same group of patients was being screened as part of separate research involving cholesterol-lowering drugs.) The results appear in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine.
Participants were asked about how many servings of chocolate they ate per week and then were screened for depression, using a questionnaire about mood, sleep and eating habits that doctors use to determine if a person might be depressed.
A depression-rating scale indicates whether a person should be referred to a psychiatrist for additional evaluation and possible treatment. Patients who score higher than a 16 on the scale are considered possibly depressed; those who score above 22 are considered likely to be depressed. People whose scores are 16 or less aren’t considered depressed.
The study found that “possibly depressed” individuals, who scored above 16, ate 8.4 servings of chocolate per month. People who weren’t depressed, scoring at or below 16, ate 5.4 servings of chocolate per month. Patients with scores higher than 22—or those most likely to be depressed—ate the most chocolate, with 11.8 servings a month.