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Chocolate and Depression

Most of us agree that chocolate is a special food. Sure, occasionally we find people who can take it or leave it, but they’re the exception. Delicious as it is, what do we make of the link between depression and craving chocolate? Does it relieve symptoms or worsen them? What do we really know about the effect chocolate has on us?

According to a July 2010 article in the TUFTS UNIVERSITY HEALTH AND NUTRITION LETTER, although people who have depression generally crave chocolate, it might make the condition worse. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine says the jury is still out on whether chocolate eases or exacerbates symptoms of depression. Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD of the University of California-San Diego and the studies’ other authors are unable to discern the effects of chocolate on depression. They do tell us, however, that “people who are clinically depressed are more likely to eat chocolate, and the more depressed they are, the more they eat.” This conclusion came from comparing the chocolate consumption of 931 adults who were not taking anti-depressants. “Those who screened positive for possible depression consumed an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month, compared with 5.4 for other participants,” they assert. “People whose scores were even higher, reflecting probable major depression, consumed even more chocolate—11.8 servings per month.” Regarding explanations, Dr. Golomb and colleagues wonder if depression stimulates cravings for chocolate, whether chocolate actually can cause a depressed mood, or whether some other physiological factors, such as inflammation, might generate both depression and chocolate cravings.

What is your relationship with chocolate? Do you only eat it or eat more of it when you’re depressed? Does it make your mood better or worse? Do you even pay attention to how you feel around chocolate—or do you just eat it mindlessly? Other things to consider: What feelings do you have while you’re eating it—guilt, shame, rebellion? How do you eat it—furtively, quickly, in one fell swoop? Do you have an open mind about chocolate—allowing yourself to eat it mindfully—or is it off limits and taboo?

Don’t wait for research conclusions regarding chocolate and depression to change your relationship with it. Instead, take charge of the way you relate to it. Consider whether your current consumption benefits or harms you. Chocolate may taste scrumptious in the moment, but if it doesn’t make you feel good in the long run, it’s not the right food for you. Don’t be a slave to your cravings if they aren’t adding to the quality of your life. No matter what research says about chocolate and depression, decide for yourself.

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