Dark chocolate is a great source of polyphenols and typically lower in sugar compared to milk chocolate. Because of this, many people—especially anyone who wants a good reason to indulge in a tasty treat—consider dark chocolate a “superfood.”
Due to its intensive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential, researchers have earnestly looked for links between dark chocolate consumption and healthy outcomes. Not surprisingly, they’ve turned their attention to the effect of chocolate on our state of mind.
A recent cross-sectional survey found that individuals who consumed the highest levels of chocolate (including dark chocolate) had 57 percent less chance of depressive symptoms than people who ate no chocolate at all.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can stop serious mental health issues with food alone, but it is nice to know that something that tastes good can actually be truly good for you.
Like tea, chocolate retains its healthiest components when it is the least processed. It’s best to find chocolate that is at least 70 percent cacao for higher polyphenol levels. Of course, dark chocolate has a distinctively different flavor than milk chocolate, but its rich flavor also means that smaller amounts of chocolate will be more satisfying – possibly in more ways than one.
Jackson SE, Smith L, Firth J, et al. Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? A cross-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults. Depress Anxiety. 2019 Jul 29. doi: 10.1002/da.22950. [Epub ahead of print]
OBJECTIVE: To examine associations between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms in a large, representative sample of US adults.
METHODS: The data were from 13,626 adults (≥20 years) participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007-08 and 2013-14. Daily chocolate consumption was derived from two 24-hr dietary recalls. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), with scores ≥10 indicating the presence of clinically relevant symptoms. We used multivariable logistic regression to test associations of chocolate consumption (no chocolate, non-dark chocolate, dark chocolate) and amount of chocolate consumption (grams/day, in quartiles) with clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Adults with diabetes were excluded and models controlled for relevant sociodemographic, lifestyle, health-related, and dietary covariates.
RESULTS: Overall, 11.1% of the population reported any chocolate consumption, with 1.4% reporting dark chocolate consumption. Although non-dark chocolate consumption was not significantly associated with clinically relevant depressive symptoms, significantly lower odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms (OR = 0.30, 95%CI 0.21-0.72) were observed among those who reported consuming dark chocolate. Analyses stratified by the amount of chocolate consumption showed participants reporting chocolate consumption in the highest quartile (104-454 g/day) had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms than those who reported no chocolate consumption (OR = 0.43, 95%CI 0.19-0.96) after adjusting for dark chocolate consumption.
CONCLUSIONS: These results provide some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Further research capturing long-term chocolate consumption and using a longitudinal design are required to confirm these findings and clarify the direction of causation.
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