By Margarita Nahapetyan
Individuals who suffer from depression tend to consume more chocolate than their non-depressed counterparts, and the amount of the creamy goodness increases with the severity of the condition, reports a new University of California study.
The study results confirm long-held suspicions that eating chocolate is something that people do when they are feeling depressed, said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, and a co-author of the study.
Dr. Golomb and her colleagues at UC San Diego and UC Davis investigated chocolate consumption and other dietary intake habits among about 1,000 men and women who were not using any antidepressant medications. The volunteers were given a depression screening test, and the investigators assessed their degree of depression using a scale called the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale.
The results revealed that study participants with the highest rankings - those who reported being most depressed - ate almost 12 servings of chocolate (each one approximately 28 grams) per month, when compared with only 5 portions per month for their peers who did not experience any symptoms of depression. Those who were moderately depressed consumed 8 servings of chocolate every month. There was no differentiation between milk and dark chocolate in the study. The findings held true among both women and men.
When the experts took into consideration other dietary factors that could be associated with mood, such as caffeine, fat and carbohydrate intake, they realized that only consumption of chocolate correlated with mood. Researchers say that more studies are needed in order to determine the basis of this correlation, as well as the role of chocolate in curing depression.
At this point it is not yet understood how chocolate and depression are linked but, according to the experts, there could be a few possibilities. In the first place, depression could stimulate cravings for chocolate as 'self-treatment' if chocolate contributes to mood benefits, they say. As an example they bring some recent studies on rats that have demonstrated just that. In the second place, it could be that depression may stimulate desire to eat chocolate for unrelated reasons. For instance, stress might be associated with both depression and chocolate cravings, and the cravings continue even though chocolate does very little to alleviate depression.
There is another possibility that chocolate could lift mood, but the effects may be counteracted by other ingredients that are often present in chocolate products, such as artificial trans fats that inhibit the production of omega-3 fatty acid. And the last possibility, the one that might not sound to pleasant for chocolate fans, is that chocolate could actually contribute to depression.
The findings were published In the April's issue of the journal The Archives of Internal Medicine.