Is There a Relationship Between Chocolate Consumption and Symptoms of Depression? A Cross-Sectional Survey of 13,626 US Adults

Depress Anxiety. 2019 Oct;36(10):987-995. doi: 10.1002/da.22950. Epub 2019 Jul 29.

Abstract

Objective: To examine associations between chocolate consumption and depressive symptoms in a large, representative sample of US adults.

Methods: The data were from 13,626 adults (≥20 years) participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007-08 and 2013-14. Daily chocolate consumption was derived from two 24-hr dietary recalls. Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), with scores ≥10 indicating the presence of clinically relevant symptoms. We used multivariable logistic regression to test associations of chocolate consumption (no chocolate, non-dark chocolate, dark chocolate) and amount of chocolate consumption (grams/day, in quartiles) with clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Adults with diabetes were excluded and models controlled for relevant sociodemographic, lifestyle, health-related, and dietary covariates.

Results: Overall, 11.1% of the population reported any chocolate consumption, with 1.4% reporting dark chocolate consumption. Although non-dark chocolate consumption was not significantly associated with clinically relevant depressive symptoms, significantly lower odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms (OR = 0.30, 95%CI 0.21-0.72) were observed among those who reported consuming dark chocolate. Analyses stratified by the amount of chocolate consumption showed participants reporting chocolate consumption in the highest quartile (104-454 g/day) had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms than those who reported no chocolate consumption (OR = 0.43, 95%CI 0.19-0.96) after adjusting for dark chocolate consumption.

Conclusions: These results provide some evidence that consumption of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, may be associated with reduced odds of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Further research capturing long-term chocolate consumption and using a longitudinal design are required to confirm these findings and clarify the direction of causation.

Keywords: NHANES; chocolate; dark chocolate; depressive symptoms; epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chocolate*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diet therapy*
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Health Questionnaire
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult