If ever there was bad news, surely this is it! Chocolate, that famous mainstay of the sad and depressed, has recently come under suspicion for making depression worse. Chocoholics beware! If this latest research is true we’ll be sobbing all the way to the chocolate counter.
Recent studies have indicated that, while chocolate still maintains its known “feel-good” effect on people who are simply having a bad day, for those who are severely stressed or clinically depressed, the effect may be to make the depression and stress worse.
These disconcerting results go against all that we have believed about chocolate. Chocolate has long been regarded as a pleasant diversion, if not quite a magic bullet, for feeling low. And, for most people, this is still the case. But research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders sheds new light on why we eat chocolate and the effect it has on us.
Researchers at Australia’s Black Dog Institute at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney have divided loyal chocolate fans into two groups based on the reason why they consume this popular confectionary. The first group was found to crave chocolate and view it as an indulgence, while the second group have an emotional component to their consumption and eat chocolate in a bid to alter mood.
The first group, the chocolate cravers, was found to react well to the dopamine- releasing effects of the chocolate, making eating chocolate a pleasurable experience.
However, the second group, the emotional eaters, was found to be eating chocolate to obtain an opioid-like effect on the brain, in an attempt to alleviate depression.
While there is a temporary relief in depression for the second group of chocoholics, the net result was a worsening of the original depression. While consuming certain foods does have a known mood-stabilizing effect on the brain, foods high in sugar, such as chocolate, appear to have a rebound effect, and may well deepen depression over time in susceptible people.
The final message: moderation in all things, including chocolate!