Life is stressful and our modern lifestyle is not doing us any favours. More and more people are getting depressed and struggle to function normally on day-to-day basis. But what can we do to prevent depression? A new UCL-led study found that eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.
Researchers analyzed data from 13,626 adults from the US. Methods were rather simple – scientists linked the reported chocolate consumption to depressive symptoms, assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire. Of course, a huge variety of other important factors had to be taken into account, such as height, weight, marital status, ethnicity, education, household income, physical activity, poor health habits and so on.
Scientists wanted to see if there is any appreciable link between dark chocolate consumption and mood disorders. What they found was rather interesting – those participants who ate some dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70 % lower chances of expressing depressive symptoms.
It is important to note that scientists did see that real chocolate lovers were less likely to be depressed, but only association between dark chocolate consumption and clinically relevant depressive symptoms was noticed. Non-dark chocolate doesn’t seem to have such an effect on person’s mental health. These results are crucially important now, when depression is the leading global cause of disability. It is estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide suffer from clinical depression.
But why would chocolate help with depression? And could it be recommended to someone who wants to lover his odds of developing this condition?
Well, scientists don’t know what makes dark chocolate so effective against depression. More studies are needed to confirm that it does indeed help and how it does that. Dr Sarah Jackson, lead author of the study, said: “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”. However, we have some clues.
Dark chocolate a bigger number of psychoactive ingredients, which can create a feeling of euphoria. Chocolate also has phenylethylamine, which is believed to be important for regulating people’s moods. And also, chocolate is delicious, it is a comfort food. If you have chocolate in your life, you’re not in a bad place.
However, as for now, we are lacking evidence to be able to say that chocolate can prevent you from developing depression. Further studies are needed. On the other hand, you may as well try it. If it improves your mood, it doesn’t even matter if it’s just a placebo effect.