Can dark chocolate help your mental health?

Can dark chocolate help your mental health?Image from @deliciouslyella on Instagram.

Eating dark chocolate may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms, a new UCL-led study has found.

The team studied data from 13,626 adults in the US and also found the 25 per cent who ate the most chocolate of any kind were less likely to report depressive symptoms than those who did not.

However, they do caveat that the survey was only a "snapshot" and further research is needed to confirm a link.

Lead author Dr Sarah Jackson, from University College London's Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: "This study provides some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms."

The team, who worked with the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada, found no significant link between not eating dark chocolate and depressive symptoms.

"Further research is required to clarify the direction of causation," Dr Jackson said.

"It could be the case that depression causes people to lose their interest in eating chocolate, or there could be other factors that make people both less likely to eat dark chocolate and to be depressed."

Getty Images.

Getty Images.

Chocolate is widely reported to have mood‐enhancing properties: it contains a number of psychoactive ingredients which produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that of cannabinoid, found in cannabis.

It also contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator which is believed to be important for regulating people’s moods.

Dark chocolate also has a higher concentration of flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals which have been shown to improve inflammatory profiles, which have been shown to play a role in the onset of depression.

Experimental evidence also suggests that mood improvements only take place if the chocolate is palatable and pleasant to eat, which suggests that the experience of enjoying chocolate is an important factor, not just the ingredients present.

Dr Jackson said it a causal relationship between eating dark chocolate and depression is established then scientists will need to understand the biological mechanism to decide what type and how much people should need for “optimal depression prevention and management”.

Main image by @deliciouslyella

READ MORE: Where to find the best chocolate ice cream in Dublin

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