Eating dark chocolate could reduce the risk of depression by 70 percent, new research suggests.
Dark chocolate has a high concentration of cacao (above 70%).
Cacao contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that can reduce inflammation in the body.
Inflammation has been strongly linked to the onset of depression.
Chocolate contains a number of psychoactive ingredients, which can produce a feeling like euphoria.
Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which can enhance people’s mood.
Studies find, though, that it is not just about what is in the chocolate.
The sensual pleasure of eating chocolate is central to its effect on mood.
The study included 13,626 adults who were asked about their chocolate consumption and any depressive symptoms, among other things.
The results showed that those who ate dark chocolate had a 70 percent lower chance of depression.
Those eating the most chocolate, of any kind, were less likely to report being depressed than those who ate no chocolate, the study found.
In contrast, those eating non-dark chocolate did not have a lower risk of depression.
Dr Sarah Jackson, the study’s first author, said:
“This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms.
However 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.
Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Depression and Anxiety (Jackson et al., 2019).