How much chocolate do you eat each month?
How much chocolate do you eat each month? iStockphoto.com
I eat chocolate every single day. And I regularly supply chocolate to others. So I was particularly interested when I heard about a study looking at chocolate and depression.
It turns out the more you eat, the more likely you are to have symptoms of depression. In an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine entitled "Mood Food," the researchers note that there are a lot of stories about chocolate's effect on mood. When they Googled "chocolate" and "mood" a month ago, they got about 5.7 million hits. I just did it, and got 6.4 million. But there's not all that much solid research out there, and what there is has uncertain results.
So three researchers from the University of California, San Diego asked 931 people who'd come in for an unrelated study about cholesterol how many times a week they ate chocolate. The people also filled out a depression questionnaire.
People in the group with screening scores suggesting that they might have major depression ate 12 or more servings a month. A serving, for those of you wondering, was a small bar. People in the group with "possible depression" ate eight servings a month. Those who screened negative for depression ate only five servings a month.
Now, the findings don't mean people who eat a lot of chocolate are necessarily depressed, but it does seem that people with depression are more likely to eat chocolate.
But why would there be an association at all? It could be that people are self-medicating. The researchers can't say that on the basis of this study. Other possibilities: depression may somehow initiate chocolate cravings, or chocolate may trigger depression (though they note this isn't likely). Or there could be some complicated chemical interactions going on. Figuring out the answer would require a different kind of study, they say.
I know what I think. I would be very depressed if I didn't have chocolate. I'll focus on studies showing that it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and I'll visit my very favorite chocolate website.
Beatrice Golomb, one of the researchers who worked on the study, admits to making a substantial contribution to the chocolate industry's profits with her own consumption, despite or maybe because of an absence of depressive symptoms. And if you're wondering who funded the chocolate-and-depression study, it was the National Institutes of Health and the UCSD, not the chocolate industry.