Dark chocolate and depression
Leo Sher, M.D.
A research report, “Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults” was recently published in Depression and Anxiety (1).
Researchers examined associations between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms in a large sample of adults in the United States. The data were from 13,626 adults (≥20 years; mean age 46.5 years; 47.8% male) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007–08 and 2013–14. Daily chocolate consumption was derived from two 24‐hr dietary recalls. Models were controlled for relevant sociodemographic, lifestyle, health‐related, and dietary covariates.
Generally, 11.1% of the population reported any chocolate consumption, with 1.4% reporting dark chocolate consumption. Significantly lower odds of depressive symptoms were observed among those who reported consuming dark chocolate but not among those who consumed non-dark chocolate. With regard to the amount of chocolate consumption, participants reporting chocolate consumption in the highest quartile (104–454 g/day) had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms than those who reported no chocolate consumption.
There are several biological and psychological mechanisms through which chocolate consumption could prevent the onset of, or cause a decrease in, depressive symptoms. For example, chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients, including two analogs of anandamine (which produce effects similar to the cannabinoid responsible for euphoria from cannabis) and several endogenous biogenic amines including phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator important for mood regulation. Also, it is possible that people who try for a healthy lifestyle are more likely to consume dark chocolate.
- Jackson SE, Smith L, Firth J, Grabovac I, Soysal P, Koyanagi A, Hu L, Stubbs B, Demurtas J, Veronese N, Zhu X, Yang L. Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults. Depress Anxiety. 2019 Oct;36(10):987-995. doi: 10.1002/da.22950.