Chocolate had always been a popular food item for restoring energy, boosting immunity and improving brain health. Along with its various nutritional benefits, what makes chocolate so popular is its silky-smooth texture and that iconic flavor that mesmerizes our taste buds.
Due to its immense popularity, it has always caught the eye of researchers around the world. Consequently, many people are interested in reading and sharing any research that features the potential health benefits of every type of chocolate.
Hence, it wasn’t much of a surprise when a recent survey-based study focusing on the consumption of dark chocolate and its connection to depression, stated that individuals consuming dark chocolate show fewer depressive symptoms.
Given its history, dark chocolate can be easily trusted as an anti-depressant. But it would be wise to look deep into the study and the relation between dark chocolate and depression before coming to a foundational conclusion.
Chocolate has a high sugar and fat content, which makes it an enjoyable snack for people. But consumers and researchers alike are keen to find what’s beyond its silky texture and captivating flavor.
This particular study is based on the research conducted by University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom. A team was formed with researchers from the UCL, working together with scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada.
As per the authenticity of the study, the scientific body claims that they haven’t received any kind of funding from any chocolate manufacturer during this research. It was punished in the journal Depression and Anxiety, titled as “People who eat dark chocolate are less likely to be depressed” – a bold header in itself.
The Purpose Behind the Study – Why Chocolate & Depression?
Depression is a globally acknowledged issue. Still, there are very few treatments available to people suffering from depression – talking therapies and medication are the most common among such treatments. It is also made clear by the authors that these therapies are usually overcharged and oversubscribed, thus, doctors usually prescribe anti-depressants.
The human body is complex and it varies from person to person. That’s where the problem arises in the field of anti-depressants. They are not always beneficial for everyone. And the study even states that many tend to stop taking these medications after 6 weeks from the beginning of the treatment.
Therefore, locating interventions in our daily lifestyle that may result in improved depressive symptoms becomes a necessity. Physical activities can help improve moods and reduce depression in some cases, but not everyone. Some people are not in the condition of doing physical activities and hence this treatment doesn’t apply to them.
Scientists have also been researching in the field of dietary interventions that may help reduce depressive symptoms. Some success that they achieved was in the form of chocolates. Even the authors of this study have acknowledged these findings – that chocolate is a commonly used food product known to exhibit mood-enhancing qualities.
But similar to other researches focused on anti-depressants, chocolates have also produced mixed results, questioning the relevance of chocolate as a mood-elevating food product.
A Meticulous and In-Depth Outlook
The researchers of the current study claim that earlier studies lacked the accountability to various variables and the possibility of variegated findings due to the different types of chocolate.
To yield better results, the researchers accounted for every possible confounding variable, that includes – weight, height, smoking, income, education, marital status, ethnicity, and other health conditions. They have also analyzed dark chocolate and non-dark chocolate separately.
The data was gathered from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They filtered the information and excluded underweight or diabetic individuals, and were left with 13,626 participants aged 20 years or above.
The study was performed using a Patient Health Questionnaire – a classic diagnostic tool for mental health disorders. The data regarding chocolate consumption was taken from two full-day dietary recalls. The first one was taken in a face-to-face interview and the second through a phone call 3-10 days later.
A Deeper Look into the Results
From the entire 13,626 participants, around 1332 (11%) reported consuming chocolate and among them, 148 reported consuming dark chocolate. The majority of individuals that consumed chocolate turned out to be non-Hispanic white with higher household income. They refrained from smoking and did not show signs of obesity.
The researchers later examined the reports along with the relevant variables and concluded that there was no connection between eating chocolate and the reduction of depressive symptoms. However, the results were quite different in the case of individuals that consumed dark chocolate.
Researchers found that individuals consuming dark chocolate displayed 70% lower chances of exhibiting severe depressive symptoms as compared to those who did not consume chocolate at all. An overall conclusion came to derivation that people consuming chocolate regardless of its type showed better mood results than those who consumed no chocolate.
What’s in for Us? Is this study Flawless?
It doesn’t matter how much the media or journals portray this study as an excellent discovery for the chocolate enthusiasts, the authors themselves have called for caution. This particular study is observational, and they cannot present tangible shreds of evidence regarding the anti-depressant effects of chocolate, and that it relieves depression. They suggest that more research is required in this case.
The lead author Dr. Sarah Jackson states that even if future studies demonstrate causal relationships, scientists have to be careful and will require the study of biological mechanisms that involve the consumption of chocolate, its type, and its capability to reduce depression.
Another issue that arises is that although the study involved a massive number of 13,000 people – only 148 people consumed dark chocolate. Plus, the recorded food intake was for two 24-hour periods. This is certainly not the usual food intake that may reflect someone’s dietary habits over a week, forget about months or years.
Conclusively, this study and the finding that came along with it stack up another layer to the existing scrambled collection of findings. It is unclear whether chocolate suppresses depressive symptoms or not. Moderation can be the best way of dealing with this idea unless some concrete pieces of evidence prove the capabilities of dark chocolate.