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Does Dark Chocolate Make You a Happier Person?

December 2, 2019

If you—like most people in the world—enjoy eating chocolate, you might actually be doing yourself a favour. While your dentist may not approve, studies have shown that eating (specifically dark) chocolate can help elevate your mood.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) worked with the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada to assess 13,626 adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They took into account a wide range of factors—such as weight, height, ethnicity, education, physical activity, marital status, household income, smoking, and chronic health problems—to ensure they only measured chocolate’s effect on depressive symptoms.

Based on this large sample size, individuals who reported eating dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had a 70% lower chance of reporting clinically-relevant depressive symptoms compared to those who did not consume any chocolate. In addition, 25% of those who consumed the most chocolate of any kind were less likely to report depressive symptoms when compared to those who did not eat any. Researchers did not find any significant link, however, between the consumption of non-dark chocolate and clinically relevant depressive symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization, depression affects over 300 million people worldwide. Something as simple as chocolate is not a cure for depression, but it may help to some degree. Dark chocolate has mood-enhancing properties, as it contains several psychoactive ingredients that produce euphoric feelings similar to the cannabinoid found in cannabis. It also contains a neuromodulator called phenylethylamine, which is thought to be an important mood regulator.

The ingredients that make up chocolate aren’t the only cause for mood improvements.

Experimental evidence suggests that dark chocolate must be pleasant to eat for your mood to be elevated. Thus, if the chocolate is not palatable, your mood may not improve. All chocolate has ingredients that improve mood, but dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidant chemicals called flavonoids—and these chemicals have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles common in the beginning stages of depression.

So, if you are feeling down, you want to go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar! Just remember to eat it in moderation.

References

 Jackson, S. E., Smith, L., Firth, J., Grabovac, I., Soysal, P., Koyanagi, A., … Yang, L. (2019). Is there a relationship between chocolate consumption and symptoms of depression? Across-sectional survey of 13,626 US adults. Depression and Anxiety. doi: 10.1002/da.22950

Ucl. (2019, August 2). People who eat dark chocolate less likely to be depressed. Retrieved from: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2019/aug/people-who-eat-dark-chocolate-less-likely-be-depressed