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Chocolate: not the feel-good food we thought?


I confess. I’m a chocoholic. Most days at lunch, I allow myself a ration of one square (or maybe two) of dark chocolate for dessert. So I read with interest a new study that found that people who are depressed eat more chocolate than people who aren’t. Among the 931 volunteers in the study, those diagnosed with depression ate an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate a month, compared to 5.4 servings by the non-depressed, the researchers reported. I’m certainly in the first category of chocolate consumers.

Does this mean I’m depressed? I hope not.

I do know that I like chocolate not only for its richly satisfying taste but also for the extra boost it gives my spirits (and my heart). Chocolate contains caffeine and also fat, which boost energy and activity levels, as well as improve the mood, or so I thought. According to the study authors at University of California-San Diego, people look to chocolate for a quick psychological pick-me-up, but it isn’t really all that effective.

“If there is a ‘treatment benefit,’ it did not suffice to overcome the depressed mood on average,” wrote Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UCSD and one of the study authors.

I was disappointed by this result, until I read some comments by a Stanford psychiatrist, who wasn’t involved in the study.

Lorrin Koran, MD, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral science, noted in a HealthDay article that "chocolate has many advantages over other possible pleasures:"

It is available, cheap, does not lose its pleasure-inducing quality with repeated use, does not require relating to other people and is culturally approved as a source of legitimate pleasure, he said.

"I strongly doubt that chocolate either induces depression or interferes with recovery from depression," Koran said. "If either idea were true, this would long ago have become obvious given the ubiquitous use of the substance over the last 500 years."

I am feeling relieved - and am looking forward to my chocolate dose at lunch today.

Photo by Magic Madzik

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