National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Candy’s Dandy, but Not for Depression
Which came first-the depression or the chocolate? Are mood foods the cause or a self-treatment for depression? And does the short-term pleasure conceal long term side-effects? Scientific minds want to know, as do as chocolate lovers everywhere.
A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests people who are depressive may reach for a bar of chocolate. The chocolate increases serotonin in the brain, bringing pleasure. Chocolate also contains caffeine and sugar which give an energy boost.
But the pleasure is only a burst and the caffeine rush doesn’t last long, which brings the depressed chocoholic back to square one. The study noted that people who rated higher on their standard depression screening ate more chocolate than those who were mildly depressed and over twice as much as those participants who were not depressed. Very depressed folks ate 12 servings of chocolate per month. Those who were mildly depressed ate 8.4 servings per month. Non-depressed participants ate only 5.4 servings per month.
The depression can increase after the chocolate’s effects wear off, when the eater becomes guilty over the calorie count. That guilt can lead to more chocolate. Plus, the candy bar may contain other ingredients that are unhealthy, like saturated fats. The studies were statistical, not ongoing, so it’s unclear whether the participants’ chocolate consumption changed over the course of a few months or a year.
Another question the study couldn’t answer was whether the depression caused the craving or if the chocolate itself caused the depression. It could be comparable to a depressed person craving alcohol. While it may make them feel better in the short run, the long-term side effects are worse than the original condition.
Rather than treating depression with chocolate bars, individuals who suffer depression should see a psychologist or try a mild anti-depressant for proper attention to their problem. Candy’s dandy, and while psychotherapy is not guilt-free, it is low-fat.