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Does dark chocolate make us happy?

Monday is National Chocolate Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you find yourself digging into the Halloween treats a little early, a recent study suggests it may be wise to snag all the dark chocolate pieces for yourself.

The study looked at data on 13,626 adults who took part in a national health and nutrition survey.

Researchers found that when people reported eating chocolate, only those who ate dark chocolate had significantly lower odds of depressive symptoms.

“In the case of dark chocolate, it was particularly powerful; when people consumed dark chocolate, it reduced the risk of depression or had a 70% lower risk of looking depressed on the scales that they used,” said Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study.

Bea said people are always looking for ways to keep their moods up that don’t require a lot of energy.

“I think we’re always looking for other ways to be happy.  We know that good, robust exercise, has protective factors against depression — but, eating chocolate just seems easier,” he said.

And while we know that dark chocolate has more health benefits than other types of chocolate, it’s not really clear if it’s the ingredients in dark chocolate that make us happy, or if happy people gravitate toward dark chocolate.

Bea said experts suspect that in the short term, chocolate leads to a boost in our rewarding brain chemicals.

Either way, if eating dark chocolate — in moderation — makes us happy, he said there’s nothing wrong with that.

“I think most people can say that eating chocolate is generally a pleasurable experience,” said Bea. “There aren’t too many people that said, ‘I had a really bad time consuming chocolate last night,’ so there may be something to the general pleasurable experience.” 

Study authors say there are a couple of ingredients in dark chocolate that could boost mood regulation, but more research needs to be done.

Complete results of the study can be found in Depression and Anxiety.