Dr. Sarah Jackson of the University College London Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care explains that this study gives us some evidence that consumption of dark chocolate, in particular, might possess qualities that help to reduce symptoms of clinical depression.
Of course, chocolate has long been heralded to have health benefits. These benefits include mood-enhancing properties as well as psychoactive ingredients that can produce sensations similar to euphoria experienced through cannabinoids (which are found in cannabis). In addition, we have learned that chocolate also has the chemical phenylethylamine. This is a neuromodulator believed to be important in mood regulation.
Now, experimental evidence suggests these benefits might simply occur as a result of chocolate being so palatable, so pleasant to the taste. This suggests, then, that chocolate’s benefit might not just be chemical, but experiential as well.
To investigate this, a new study from researchers at the University of College London and the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services analyzed data from 13,000 adults in the United States. From these statistics they found that those who ate dark chocolate were 70 percent less likely to experience symptoms of depression, in as short a period as 24 hours.
The lead study author, then, advises that more research is necessary for clarifying something called “direction of causation.” This describes that, perhaps, depression causes people to lose their interest in chocolate (or other pleasures) or there may be other factors that “make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed.”
She goes on to say, “Should a causal relationship demonstrating a protective effect of chocolate consumption on depressive symptoms be established, the biological mechanism needs to be understood to determine the type and amount of chocolate consumption for optimal depression prevention and management.”