Study: Depressed people eat more chocolate

The ABC is reporting on a study just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which seems to show that depressed people eat more chocolate. This is interesting due to the much discussed – but often poorly studied – link between mood and chocolate. However more detailed conclusions are not yet possible from this study.

The study Mood Food: Chocolate and Depressive Symptoms in a Cross-sectional Analysis, involved 931 subjects (both men and women) who were enroled in a different study, but whose dietary habits and mood were examined using various standardised questionnaires. In short the study found that those screening higher for possible depression averaged around 8.4 servings of chocolate per month, whereas those who did not screen positive for possible depression averaged 5.4 servings per month. Also those with much higher scores for possible depression averaged an even higher consumption of 11.8 servings per month. A serving was defined as 1 small bar or 28g of “chocolate candy”.

A weakness which the authors point out is that this study of course does not help us understand whether chocolate consumption contributes to depression, or is consumed as a result of depression, or is even an attempt at dietary self-medication for depression. In the Discussion the authors recognise the complexity of the issue, mentioning that a physiological factor such as oxidation or inflammation could drive the depression as well as the desire for chocolate (a known antioxidant source), and also …

more complex relationships could be hypothesized; for instance, chocolate could have intrinsic mood-elevating effects driving chocolate cravings, but artificial trans fats (which inhibit omega-3 fatty acid production with expected mood worsening consequences) accompany many chocolate products and may neutralize or reverse such benefits on average.

Another issue is the definition of chocolate. So called “chocolate candy” covers a lot of ground, and it would be interesting for a study to look at type of chocolate consumption to see if there was any relationship in terms of behaviour and even activity of dark vs milk, “chocolate candy” with a large number of other ingredients vs plain chocolate, etc.

Still, an interesting report nonetheless. If you want to read the full paper (subscription required) …

Rose N, et al, 2010. Mood Food Chocolate and Depressive Symptoms in a Cross-sectional Analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine 170(8):699-703

Copyright Ian Breakspear, 2014