Individuals who ate dark chocolate appeared less likely to exhibit clinically relevant depressive symptoms, according to findings recently published in Depression & Anxiety. Depression is a serious, common, and recurring disorder that currently affects more than 300 million people worldwide (World Health Organization).

It is the leading cause of disability and the fourth leading cause of global disease burden. Two main treatment options for depression have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms: antidepressant medications and short‐term psychotherapies; such as cognitive‐behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, or problem‐solving therapy.

The potential to control depressive symptoms via lifestyle changes may provide an attractive option to patients for whom conventional treatments; are not an effective option and individuals with subclinical depressive symptoms; who are not eligible for formal treatment. Benefits of physical activity are well documented.

Effects of chocolate

A 2013 systematic review of experimental research on the effects of chocolate; or its components on mood identified eight small studies (n ≤ 113); of which five reported either an improvement in mood state or attenuation of negative mood. “Previous studies have not adequately controlled for variables that may potentially confound the association; such as socioeconomic status. Moreover, previous studies have not examined the association with depression according to the type of chocolate consumed,” Sarah E. Jackson said.

However, they reviewed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007 to 2008; and 2013 to 2014 and Public Health Questionnaire-9 scores from 13,626 adults 20 years of age and older to fill in this research gap. Individuals who ate dark chocolate appeared less likely to exhibit clinically relevant depressive symptoms; according to findings recently published in Depression & Anxiety.

Lower odds of depressive symptoms

Jackson and colleagues found that 11.1% of those that studied reported eating any type of chocolate and that 1.4% reported consuming dark chocolate. Significantly lower odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms (OR = 0.3; 95% CI, 0.21-0.72) were observed among those who reported eating dark chocolate vs. those who reported.

In addition, analysis showed that after adjusting for dark chocolate consumption, those who reported eating the most chocolate between 104 g and 454 g a day had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms than those who reported no chocolate consumption (OR = 0.43; 95% CI, 0.19-0.96). “The present results are in line with the majority of experimental studies, which have shown benefits of chocolate consumption for mood, at least in the short-term.

However, they are inconsistent with previous surveys that have found positive associations between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms. The discrepant results may be attributable to the adjustment in the present analyses for a wide range of covariates accounting for potential confounding,” Jackson and colleagues wrote. They suggested that future studies should attempt to “clarify the direction of causation.”