Does eating chocolate to relieve depression make it worse?


Is there a deeper chocolate depression link? From Wikimedia Commons.

It is a known phenomenon that some people eat chocolate to relieve depression, but there is growing concern about whether the chocolate-depression relationship is a vicious cycle.  A recent study found that people who eat the most chocolate are more likely to suffer from depression. The study was headed by Dr. Natalie Rose, MD, of the University of San Diego, and was published in a recent issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.  I could go for my own chocolate study about now, but I don’t want to run for short term loans to pay the dentist and the personal trainer I’d need.

Chocolate depression link

The study of the chocolate depression link, as reported by WebMD, was conducted on 931 individuals in the San Diego area. Of the test subjects, those who ate 8.4 servings or more per month tested positive for possible depression. Those who ate 5.4 servings or fewer did not test positive for depression. Individuals who ate 11.8 servings or more monthly tested positive for possibly having major depression, a worse form of the disease.  The study was done via questionnaire, and none were on anti-depressant medication.

No link known at present

In the same study, Dr. Rose, et al., did not conclude causality was implied, or that one was caused by the other.  (Correlation, as ever, does not imply causality.)  The authors decided that “Future studies are required to elucidate the foundation of the association and whether chocolate has a role in depression, as cause or cure.” This doesn’t, essentially mean that any concrete link between the two has been established, so don’t go getting no fax loans to lobby the FDA to ban chocolate just yet.

What this all means

People are known to eat chocolate when depressed. Eating sweets releases endorphins which counteract depression.  In other words, the study determined that people who ate more chocolate were likely to be more depressed. In other words, people that are more depressed try to do more about it.  Currently, the mainline treatments for depression are SSRI medications.


SSRI stands for Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor. The quick version: nerves have gaps between their ends.  Chemicals are fired into them to send certain signals, and a portion of these chemicals are re-absorbed after firing.  An imbalance can be corrected (in theory) by people taking medication that limits the amount withdrawn, thus boosting the serotonin levels and thus, lifting depression. Chocolate is one of the many things that naturally works in the same capacity.