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Chocolate and depression linked, but how?


(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This afternoon, with the publication of this study, we know more about the relationship between chocolate and mood.

But not much more.

Researchers at the University of California analyzed just over 900 men and women's self-reported chocolate consumption and assessed those people's symptoms of depression (if any) using a standard screening survey. They found that those who ate the most chocolate were also those with the most symptoms of depression. The more chocolate eaten, the worse the depression. That held true for men and women alike.

Alas, as is so often the case, the data couldn't demonstrate whether chocolate plays some role in causing depression or whether depression causes increased chocolate consumption.

The researchers were able to pinpoint, though, that it's the chocolate itself -- not the fat, carbs or caffeine therein -- that was related to mood.

More research is needed, they conclude, to determine which of five potential scenarios best explains the chocolate-depression connection. Those scenarios include everything from the possibility that depressed people self-medicate with chocolate to the notion that both chocolate cravings and depression may be triggered by some underlying physiological factor such as inflammation.

I find it amazing that science has not yet pinned this all down yet. It seems obvious to me that we reach for the bag of Hershey's kisses when we feel blue -- but apparently that's not been established after all. I would like to volunteer to take part in the next study -- if it involves lots of chocolate, that is.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  April 26, 2010; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Mental Health , Nutrition and Fitness , Psychology  
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Comments

Hey! Chocolate tastes good. It's pleasurable. Whether you are depressed or just feeling blue, you seek out something that gives you pleasure. You don't have to be a bio-chemist to figure that out! The extreme, of course, is alcohol or illegal drugs. When someone moves to any of those substances, then he/she may be in serious trouble.

Posted by: TESimonton | April 26, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Hey! Chocolate tastes good. It's pleasurable. Whether you are depressed or just feeling blue, you seek out something that gives you pleasure. You don't have to be a bio-chemist to figure that out! The extreme, of course, is alcohol or illegal drugs. When someone moves to any of those substances, then he/she may be in serious trouble.

Posted by: TESimonton | April 26, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Hey! Chocolate tastes good. It's pleasurable. Whether you are depressed or just feeling blue, you seek out something that gives you pleasure. You don't have to be a bio-chemist to figure that out! The extreme, of course, is alcohol or illegal drugs. When someone moves to any of those substances, then he/she may be in serious trouble.

Posted by: TESimonton | April 26, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Correlation does NOT imply causation.

Otherwise, it's called junk science.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | April 26, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Correlation does NOT imply causation.

Otherwise, it's called junk science.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | April 26, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

Seems to me the chocolate-depression link is largely cultural: Americans turn to chocolate as a comfort food. Can't imagine that chocolate would actually cause depression. It would be interesting to see if this link holds in other (non-chocolate-eating) countries.

Also, a minor copy-editing critique: the second-to-last paragraph mentions a "coffee-depression" link, which I surmise should actually be "chocolate-depression."

Posted by: Beobachter | April 26, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

The article mentions a "coffee-depression connection." I'm guessing it's typo, and not a further part of the chocolate study. I like them both, so I'm sure I'm doomed!

Posted by: briancullen | April 26, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure for the depressed it makes the mind momentarily feel better, only to languish over eating unhealthy foods. For the happy, the opposite: momentary self-pity (if any) followed by gratification.

If someone is in despair though, binge eating is definitely a response that would skew the data. Further study sounds like a good idea.

Posted by: Crucialitis | April 26, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

The reality is that chocolate tastes very good. The foodies of the world seem obsessed with taste thoughout their lives. But there is no doubt that chocolate can provide a nice high for those of us moving toward our sunset years.

Posted by: dnjake | April 26, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the coffee-depression connection. Er, or is it the chocolate-depression connection? Or the coffee-chocolate connection?

Is there a connection between the WaPo's revenues and the lack of proofreading in recent years?

Posted by: hitpoints | April 26, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

What in the owlrd is going on here? Previous studies that the media reported used to prove the opposite - chocolate reduces depression! Maybe those studies were financed by chocolatiers themselves.

Posted by: jsehgal | April 26, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Obviously eating chocolate does not cause people to become depressed. However, some people may reach for some of their favorite chocolates or nearly any chocolate when they are feeling sad for momentary comfort.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | April 26, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

I love the ending of this article. I too would volunteer to participate in this study. Hilarious!

Posted by: celestun100 | April 26, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Hersheys kisses aren't chocolate-- they are mostly milk solids and sugar and a bit of cocoa held by cocoa butter and soy lecithin.

You want real chocolate, grab yourself a bar of Dagoba or Chocolove dark-- brilliant stuff, willa lter your mood for sure.

Posted by: alarico | April 26, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

This article does not even differentiate between dark chocolate and milk chocolate or mention flavinols, serotonins, anti-oxidants, etc. Dark chocolate has many health benefits including helping to balance serotonins. Everyone I know that enjoys dark chocolate knows it can enhance mood and has health benefits and as far as I know are not depressed. I have a little chocolate most every night with wine an my feeling is it helps balance mood. Its good for the heart and skin also. It doesn't make me want to read the study which you have to sign in to some site to try and download. If this is the best synopsis that can be done on the study, then the study sounds very flawed.

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | April 26, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

More research? H***** yes! I'm depressed and I want to be in the study. A long term study. Like ten years or so.

And we have to figure out if M&M's, Hershey's kisses, Lindt, Godiva, etc. are the best therapy.

Posted by: oracle2world | April 26, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

The Lean and Fit newsletter had this for a link "Chocolate and the blues"

I hope you will educate the writer of that link on the difference between the momentary mood of the blues and the often minimized disease, depression.

Posted by: txJosh16 | April 27, 2010 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Depressed folks have low levels of serotonin. Low levels of serotonin cause sugar cravings. Hence, depressed folks crave chocolate.

Posted by: BJoe | April 27, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

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