People suffering from depression eat more chocolate, and the amount increases with the severity of their illness, a new study released Monday found.
"Our study confirms long-held suspicions that eating chocolate is something that people do when they are feeling down," said Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California at San Diego, a co-author of the study appearing in the April 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.
Researchers looked at chocolate consumption and mood in about 1,000 adults who were not on anti-depressive medications and did not have heart disease or diabetes.
Participants were asked about the amount of chocolate they ate in a week. Their degree of depression was assessed on a scale called the "Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale."
The researchers found that test subjects with the highest rankings - that is, those who were most depressed - consumed almost 12 portions of chocolate (each one about 28 grams) per month, compared to five a month in the same time period for those with no depression symptoms.
Moderately depressed subjects ate eight portions a month.
The study did not differentiate between milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
"The findings did not appear to be explained by a general increase in caffeine, fat, carbohydrate or energy intake, suggesting that our findings are specific to chocolate," Golomb stressed.
Nor was there any difference in consumption of other antioxidant-rich foods, such as fish, coffee, fruits and vegetables between those with depression and those who were not depressed, she explained.
Additional research is needed to determine "the basis of this association, as well as the role of chocolate in depression, as cause or cure," researchers said.