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.