Do you reach for a bar of chocolate when you feel low? Or do you find you simply don’t get the blues when you chow down on the dark stuff? Both are good questions. But a study led by University College London scientists thinks the second could be particularly significant – in fact they suggest eating dark chocolate may ward off symptoms of depression and put you in a good mood.
Published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, the study analysed data on more than 13,000 adults via the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. After adjusting for a range of other factors that might have an effect on depressive symptoms, they found those who said they ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods were 70 per cent less likely to report having depression compared with others who ate no chocolate at all.
Don’t like dark chocolate? Well chocolate of any kind could have a similar effect, though only if you eat a lot of it. In the study, the 25 per cent of people who ate the most chocolate of any kind were also less likely to report feeling depressed compared with the choc abstainers.
But before you rush off to your nearest corner shop to stock up on cocoa-based treats, the scientists say they can’t tell whether chocolate prevents depression or that depression simply makes you lose interest in eating chocolate. Also the study only looked at the association between diet and depression in a general population – it didn’t try to prove eating dark chocolate actually causes fewer depressive symptoms.
That said, many claims have been made for chocolate’s mood-boosting capabilities, potentially because it contains euphoria-producing psychoactive ingredients similar to those found in cannabis.
Eating loads of chocolate isn’t going to do your waistline any good though. So it may be time to get a taste for the dark kind so you can get happy by eating less. Anything with at least 70 per cent cocoa solids is thought to have health benefits, so start with 70 per cent and gradually work your way up to 99 per cent (yes, it’s bitter, but give it a chance and you’ll grow to love it).
Or why not make your own? It’s really not that difficult. Search online for raw chocolate recipes.