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Is dark chocolate a safe anti-depressant?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 28, 2013 at 5:00 AM

I've been having a decent amount of depression lately, and I've been noticing that upping my dark chocolate consumption has had a rather significant alleviating effect. But here's the problem: Either my depression has gotten worse recently for an unrelated reason, or otherwise I've begun to develop some sort of tolerance. Averaging a bar a day, I'm in no position to increase the dose to compensate for this.

So I'm wondering, have any of you noticed this anti-depressive effect, and do you have any idea whether it's safe or not? I'm starting to worry that even if I haven't developed a dependency yet, I may develop one soon, and end up in a situation where I have to spend a lot of money and put my health at risk just to be able to function at baseline capacity, unless I wish to go through a potentially agonizing withdrawal stage.

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:56 AM

Lastly, do you get these cravings at certain times of day? Before you eat? After? When you feel tired, stressed, or lonely? Any clue there might help you figure out what triggers it.

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:54 AM

Psych: Can you make some friends where you are now? Volunteer work is a quit way to meet nice people.

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:54 AM

Sleep: Insomnia-depression is a hard cycle to break. Some people say you get better sleep if you eat less fat/carbs and more protein at dinner. Also, it helps to stop eating 4 hrs before bed. That way you aren't burning energy when you're trying to sleep. What is blue-light therapy?

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:53 AM

Nutrition: Dark chocolate is high-fat and moderate-carb. Is it possible that you're craving it because you aren't getting enough fat or carbs?

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:52 AM

Thanks for following up. Nutrition: Dark chocolate is high-fat and moderate-carb. Is it possible that you're craving it because you aren't getting enough fat or carbs? Sleep: Insomnia-depression is a hard cycle to break. What do you eat in the evening? Some people think its better to eat less fat/carbs and more protein in the evening. Also, it helps to stop eating 4 hrs before bed. That way you aren't burning energy when you're trying to sleep. What is blue-light therapy?

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:28 AM

Thanks for the response. I already take magnesium and vitamin D, but I definitely forget the vitamin D sometimes. I'll make sure to remember, plus I'll consider altering the dose and seeing what happens to the symptoms

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:26 AM

Thanks for the link. Yeah that's definitely true. It's not my intention to rely on a stimulant. It just ended up that way, and now I'm worried about it

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:05 AM

So anyway, thanks again for the systematic approach in your response. It gave me a good template to sort of think about what could be going on. I'd appreciate your feedback on these details as well, if something here strikes you

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:03 AM

Psychological possibilities: I recently moved from one location to one on the opposite side of the world. I've been pretty lonely, having to start over to some extent. Good news is this is short term, as long as I can gather the motivation to take the plunge (for me, depression kills my motivation for everything but exercise, and in some cases writing articles and forum posts)

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:00 AM

Activity: Been getting a ton of exercise. For me, running or lifting or something like that is one of the only ways to completely remove whatever negativity I'm operating under, no matter how extreme. The more depressed I get the more I crave exercise

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:59 AM

Sunlight: My sleep schedule was backwards for a couple months, meaning I almost never saw the sun. I've done a lot of light therapy though (blue light), plus the past week I've flipped my schedule and I've been getting a lot of sun

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:56 AM

As for sleep, I've actually been having trouble getting enough sleep due to the depression itself. I don't know whether this is a common effect, but for me being depressed means insomnia. If lack of sleep causes depression, then I'm in the midst of a dangerous vicious cycle

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:55 AM

I'll check out cron-o-meter right now. I'm not sure why I haven't done so yet, as I've seen a lot of people mention it. I'll see what my diet looks like

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:54 AM

Thanks for your very systematic response. First of all, I've been eating the highest quality 80-85% dark chocolate I can find (Taza is my favorite). It's just that the amount has become so much that I'm starting to really worry, especially since it doesn't seem to be giving me as much of a lift as it used to. I'm worried I'm going to get to a point where eating this amount every day starts being a requirement instead of a bonus

194d8e8140425057fe06202e1e5822a7

(3979)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:21 AM

^ This resonates me. Chocolate gets me high, and then I crash. The crash makes it not worth it.

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8 Answers

2
A7c1857ce53fb11a9351d05718c7070d

(283)

on August 28, 2013
at 05:57 PM

Regarding dark chocolate, some studies say that the mood affects it has may simply be short lived responses to the pleasurable taste of chocolate while other studies say they are more long lasting improved cognition effects. Basically, it sounds like it depends on the specific individual. I wrote an article the other day on Dark Chocolate and our Health. If you look at the first reference I list, there is a section there on dark chocolate and our mood, which outlines a few studies focusing on this area. Although, keep in mind that not all the studies used high quality dark chocolate.

http://www.thebarefootgolfer.com/2013/08/27/dark-chocolate-health/

With regards to depression, not sure simply relying on dark chocolate is the optimal approach.

194d8e8140425057fe06202e1e5822a7

(3979)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:21 AM

^ This resonates me. Chocolate gets me high, and then I crash. The crash makes it not worth it.

2
Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

on August 28, 2013
at 08:20 AM

Mark Sisson pointed out that chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which is simulates feelings of love in the brain. The chemical is present in cacao, so the higher percentage dark, the more of it you'll get. You'll also decrease your sugar consumption and increase your antioxidant intake. If you can tolerate it, try 85% dark. That's the healthiest way to get your fix.

Beyond that, it might be good to look for the cause of your depression. Are you getting adequate protein, fat, and vitamins? If you're not sure you can check cron-o-meter for your daily nutrient values. If that checks out, are you getting enough sleep, sunlight, and activity? If so, it may be a psychological issue. Are you worried or upset by anything in particular? Are you lonely, bored, restless?

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:05 AM

So anyway, thanks again for the systematic approach in your response. It gave me a good template to sort of think about what could be going on. I'd appreciate your feedback on these details as well, if something here strikes you

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:56 AM

As for sleep, I've actually been having trouble getting enough sleep due to the depression itself. I don't know whether this is a common effect, but for me being depressed means insomnia. If lack of sleep causes depression, then I'm in the midst of a dangerous vicious cycle

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:59 AM

Sunlight: My sleep schedule was backwards for a couple months, meaning I almost never saw the sun. I've done a lot of light therapy though (blue light), plus the past week I've flipped my schedule and I've been getting a lot of sun

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:53 AM

Nutrition: Dark chocolate is high-fat and moderate-carb. Is it possible that you're craving it because you aren't getting enough fat or carbs?

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:54 AM

Thanks for your very systematic response. First of all, I've been eating the highest quality 80-85% dark chocolate I can find (Taza is my favorite). It's just that the amount has become so much that I'm starting to really worry, especially since it doesn't seem to be giving me as much of a lift as it used to. I'm worried I'm going to get to a point where eating this amount every day starts being a requirement instead of a bonus

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:54 AM

Psych: Can you make some friends where you are now? Volunteer work is a quit way to meet nice people.

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 05:55 AM

I'll check out cron-o-meter right now. I'm not sure why I haven't done so yet, as I've seen a lot of people mention it. I'll see what my diet looks like

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:56 AM

Lastly, do you get these cravings at certain times of day? Before you eat? After? When you feel tired, stressed, or lonely? Any clue there might help you figure out what triggers it.

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:00 AM

Activity: Been getting a ton of exercise. For me, running or lifting or something like that is one of the only ways to completely remove whatever negativity I'm operating under, no matter how extreme. The more depressed I get the more I crave exercise

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:52 AM

Thanks for following up. Nutrition: Dark chocolate is high-fat and moderate-carb. Is it possible that you're craving it because you aren't getting enough fat or carbs? Sleep: Insomnia-depression is a hard cycle to break. What do you eat in the evening? Some people think its better to eat less fat/carbs and more protein in the evening. Also, it helps to stop eating 4 hrs before bed. That way you aren't burning energy when you're trying to sleep. What is blue-light therapy?

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:03 AM

Psychological possibilities: I recently moved from one location to one on the opposite side of the world. I've been pretty lonely, having to start over to some extent. Good news is this is short term, as long as I can gather the motivation to take the plunge (for me, depression kills my motivation for everything but exercise, and in some cases writing articles and forum posts)

Fa4b934bc224b17784fe0ee36d153dcd

(168)

on August 30, 2013
at 12:54 AM

Sleep: Insomnia-depression is a hard cycle to break. Some people say you get better sleep if you eat less fat/carbs and more protein at dinner. Also, it helps to stop eating 4 hrs before bed. That way you aren't burning energy when you're trying to sleep. What is blue-light therapy?

1
8ce8b8fd33944e67dfd6277e7b671815

(327)

on August 28, 2013
at 05:03 PM

psychotherapy has been shown to be just as effective as medication, same as light therapy and exercise. Also bacteria have been linked to depression, as in the ones in your gut. So get some good probiotics and start eating/making your own fermented foods

0
A2e8d31afecec9931738667a27b6cdf3

on September 16, 2013
at 05:25 PM

If you want some chocolate and it makes you feel good, have it. But don't expect it to work any miracles for you. I do think depriving yourself will do more damage than indulging would do good though, so that's one reason to have a little nibble I suppose~

0
0f8f77156cd0667d43194fc4b8bc3b5d

on September 14, 2013
at 09:49 PM

My experience is the same as Cass 3's, if I start to crave any kind of chocolate it is always alleviated by an extra Mg+ tab (200mg mag citrate) for a few days.

0
D396b126240f584bc358e6e4fd84e9e3

on August 29, 2013
at 04:26 AM

Whatever effect chocolate has on your mood, it's likely only to be short lived.

I would try half a tablet (2.5 mg) of lithium orotate a day, first thing in the morning. This recommendation came from Paul Jaminet. I've been taking it for a week and noticed a noticeable improvement in my mood.

0
F6dc4dd3aad53428709dd93c6cb31668

on August 29, 2013
at 04:09 AM

n=1, here.

A few weeks ago, I was more stressed out then normal and suffering from what I consider a "mild(?) depression." Lethargy, wanting to sleep more than usual, not having the same interest in talking/hanging out with friends, getting upset over nothing, not exercising, wanting to cry all the time, etc.

I have never, ever experienced that before. Ever. And I'm 24, and used to be bulimic.

Anyways, long story short, I've also noticed that my hormones are kind of out of wack. I ordered some progesterone cream online, and while I was waiting for it to come in the mail, I began to look at what could trigger a change like that in me.

During all of this, I was also eating tons and tons of 90% dark chocolate. In fact, it's the only thing I craved. I kind of thought I was pregnant because that was literally the only thing that appealed to me. I had no appetite except for for coffee and dark chocolate.

OK, getting to the point.

I was thinking about why I would be craving dark chocolate - and then it hit me. Women usually crave dark chocolate because it is high in magnesium. In fact, that's one of the reasons doctors say women will eat more chocolate during their periods - to replenish their lost magnesium. And what I had I stopped doing? Taking my Vit D and magnesium supplements. I had moved the box with my vitamins into the cupboard and had been forgotting to take them in the mornings.

So, I changed three things:

  1. I take a magnesium supplement every morning
  2. Use my progesterone cream 2x a day
  3. Take 3000mg of VitD in the morning also

And like magic, I'm happy and myself again. Also, -most- of my cravings for dark chocolate are gone.

So, I seriously urge you to try changing those three things. Within 2 days, I was back to my normal self. If they don't work, they don't. But it may be better than being put on prescription meds/spending lots of time with a therapist, etc, etc. It may be more of a biological issue than a mental one.

Good luck. :)

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:28 AM

Thanks for the response. I already take magnesium and vitamin D, but I definitely forget the vitamin D sometimes. I'll make sure to remember, plus I'll consider altering the dose and seeing what happens to the symptoms

0
50a12c595436b7620224676a2ae4acb9

(128)

on August 28, 2013
at 01:32 PM

Chocolate also contains a decent amount of caffeine, which could contribute to alleviating your mood. This thread has a long discussion about the health benefits of chocolate and cacao, maybe you'll find an answer there.

http://paleohacks.com/questions/1089/chocolate-is-it-healthy#axzz2cwR3dmtT

As for the depression, I think it's always best to look to other forms of medication and relief, not to food. You're right you could be putting your health on the line. Are you able to go to a therapist or a consular?

5bd7f43c7da83282bcb78e3aa33832e0

(266)

on August 29, 2013
at 06:26 AM

Thanks for the link. Yeah that's definitely true. It's not my intention to rely on a stimulant. It just ended up that way, and now I'm worried about it

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