A study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has confirmed that chocolate is a favorite snack for people when they are feeling down.

Researchers found that both women and men eat more chocolate as depressive symptoms increase, suggesting an association between mood and chocolate. Future studies will be required to determine the basis of this association, as well as the role of chocolate in depression, as cause or cure, researchers say.

Results of the study were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine this week.

The study examined the relationship of chocolate consumption to mood in an adult study sample of 1,018 subjects (694 men and 324 women) who were not on antidepressant medications and did not have any known cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Participants were asked questions regarding how many servings of chocolate they ate in a week, and were screened using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) to measure mood.

Both men and women who had higher depression scores consumed almost 12 servings of chocolate per month, those with lesser depression scores ate about eight servings of chocolate per month, and those with no depression had five servings per month. No differentiation was made between dark and milk chocolate; a medium serving of chocolate was one ounce, which is slightly less than an average chocolate candy bar.

"Our study confirms long-held suspicions that eating chocolate is something that people do when they are feeling down," said Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UCSD School of Medicine. "Because it was a cross sectional study, meaning a slice in time, it did not tell us whether the chocolate decreased or intensified the depression."

"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," said Golomb. There was also no difference in the consumption of other antioxidant-rich foods, such as fish, coffee, fruits and vegetables between those with depression and those without.

Citation: Natalie Rose, Sabrina Koperski, Beatrice A. Golomb, 'Mood Food: Chocolate and Depressive Symptoms in a Cross-sectional Analysis', Arch Intern Med., 2010;170(8):699-703