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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chocolate and depression may be linked, research shows

Those frequent trips to Yolo Berry for chocolate frozen yogurt may mean more than just a sweet tooth.

Last week, UC Davis and UC San Diego researchers released a study on dietary intake patterns, which found a possible relationship between chocolate and depression.

The study of 931 men and women showed those who tested positive for possible depression ate an average of 8.4 ounces of chocolate per month compared to 5.4 ounces among those who tested negative for depression. The correlation between chocolate and depression was part of a larger study on the affects of food intake on overall health.

Although the study took caffeine, omega-3s and alcohol intake into account, only chocolate was related to mood.

“Because of the kind of study we did, we can’t show cause and effect,” said Natalie Rose, an OB/GYN resident at UC Davis Medical Center who co-authored the research during her studies at UCSD.

“Possible explanations for the relationship may be self medication, or, although I’d like to think this isn’t the answer, that chocolate is causing depression.”

Those who participated in the study were not using anti-depressant medicine and depression score had no relation with overall calorie intake.

Previous chocolate research has found that chocolate acts as a catalyst for releasing dopamine, a pleasure inducing chemical, into the brain, and in 2006 UC Davis researchers found the presence of a heart-healthy chemical compound in some chocolate products.

“When people feel depressed, it is not uncommon to see an impact on one’s relationship to food,” said Stefanie Greenberg, Eating Disorder Program coordinator at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). “Moreover, it is not uncommon for people who struggle with eating concerns to also experience mood disturbance.”

Anecdotes from “Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage” explain how chocolate has been intertwined in American history since the earliest record from the 1630s, when barrels of chocolate washed ashore after a shipwreck. The book reveals how historic figures have perhaps turned to chocolate during hard times.

Meriwether Louis ate chocolate to renew his energy during his exhausting journey with William Clark, Amelia Earhart found solace through chocolate during one of her loneliest flights and chocolate was allotted to Revolutionary War soldiers.

Focusing on the history of chocolate in North America, the book was culmination of 10 years work by Louis Grivetti from the Department of Nutrition and Howard-Yana Shapiro, adjunct professor at UC Davis.

The co-initiators of the book had help from 52 researchers and 210 archives from around the world. Grivetti and Shapiro hope the book will spawn chocolate scholarship.

“Every place we turned, we made fantastic world class discoveries,” Shapiro said. “We had seen how cocoa was utilized in South America. No one had ever given any attention to the history of chocolate in the United States.”

Research was funded by Mars, Inc, and all royalties from the book will go to Shields Library to help purchase more books on chocolate.

Their book has gained nationwide attention, placing among three finalists for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award.

Although the book didn’t win the award, Shapiro said the book has been met with phenomenal reviews and with a 2009 symposium on the book held at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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