Indulging in chocolate may help lift one’s mood, but a new study has found that people who eat the most chocolate have a greater likelihood of depression.
A study of 931 men and women in the San Diego area showed that people who ate an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month tested positive for possible depression, while people who ate only 5.4 servings per month did not test positive.
People who ate 11.8 servings per month tested positive for probable major depression, a more severe form of the condition. The participants were not taking any antidepressant drugs at the time of the study, WebMD reports.
Chocolate prompts the release of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, that produce feelings of pleasure.
There is no evidence, however, that chocolate has a sustained benefit on improving mood. Like alcohol, chocolate may contribute a short-term boost in mood followed by a return to depression or a worsened mood. A study published in 2007 in the journal Appetite found that eating chocolate improved mood but only for about three minutes.
It's also possible that depressed people seek chocolate to improve mood but that the trans fats in some chocolate counteract the effect of omega-3 fatty acid production in the body, the authors said in the paper. Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to improve mental health.
Another theory is that chocolate consumption contributes to depression or that some physiological mechanism, such as stress, drives both depression and chocolate cravings, according to Los Angeles Times.