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UC Food Safety
University of California
UC Food Safety

Depressed people eat more chocolate

Depressing news for those who love chocolate. A recent study published by UC Davis and UC San Diego medical scientists in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that consumption of the delicacy appears to be associated with depression.

The scientists examined the relationship between chocolate and mood among 931 women and men who were not using antidepressants. Their surprising conclusion: Participants who screened positive for possible depression ate an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month; those who weren't depressed ate on average 5.4 servings per month.

People who reflected major depression ate an average of 11.8 servings per month. What does that say about people like me who eat 30 or more servings of chocolate every month? It is depressing to contemplate.

The study's authors offered some possible explanations for the seeming correlation of chocolate consumption with depression:
  • Depression could stimulate chocolate cravings as 'self-treatment'
  • Depression may stimulate chocolate cravings for other reasons
  • Chocolate could contribute to depressed mood
  • Inflammation could drive both depression and chocolate cravings
"Future studies are required to elucidate the foundation of the association and to determine whether chocolate has a role in depression, as cause or cure," the authors conclude.

If you are looking for some good news associated with chocolate consumption, go to the UC ANR website Feeling Fine Online and view the 15-minute video of UC Davis nutrition professor Carl Keen explaining the health benefits chocolate.

According to Keen, a diet high in flavanols, such as those in chocolate, can reduce inflammatory conditions associated with cardio vascular disease, vasoconstriction and the risk of forming a blood clot.

A new study indicates that flavanols may increase a population of certain cells in the blood that scientists think help repair the inner walls of blood vessels, improving blood flow and potentially lowering blood pressure. This suggests that, in the future, isolated flavanols or flavanol-rich foods might be useful in preventing or possibly even treating coronary artery disease. For more information, read the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences story Flavanol-rich foods may help heart disease patients, study suggests.

(Ann King Filmer contributed to this story.)

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Posted on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 6:39 AM

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