People who are depressed tend to eat more chocolate

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The relationship between well being and chocolate may be extensively addressed in conventional wisdom and pop culture but little scientific research has actually examined whether the food so intuitively linked to mood has any more concrete correlation. To remedy that, a team of researchers from the University of California at Davis and at San Diego examined the chocolate consumption habits of more than 1,000 men and women. They also assessed participants’ overall mood and symptoms of depression using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. And their findings, published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, indicate that both men and women who scored higher on the depression scale—or were categorized as possibly suffering from depression—tended to eat more chocolate than those who scored lower. What’s more, the researchers found that higher consumption of chocolate wasn’t explained by higher overall caloric intake. That is, people battling depression didn’t necessarily eat more in general, they just tended to eat more chocolate.

Researchers emphasize that finding this correlation doesn’t help explain what causes it, and say that examining a causal relationship is a next step in the research. Still, they speculate about a broad range of possibilities—including that the mood elevating properties of chocolate (as indicated by rat studies) might be prompting people suffering from depression toward self-medication of sorts, or that some physiological symptom could drive both depression and chocolate cravings. And, almost begrudgingly they concede, “[T]he possibility that chocolate could causally contribute to depressed mood, driving the association, cannot be excluded.”

Yet while we wait for new research to examine the scientific link between mood and chocolate, there are plenty of perhaps less rigorous reflections on our relationship with the cocoa bean to consider—everything from the restorative qualities of chocolate in the wake of a Dementor attack in Harry Potter to “Brownie Husband” helping fill the emotional (and em, physical) needs of the overworked modern woman.