Chocolate is not an antidepressant. Interaction between chocolate and neurotransmitter systems in the brain, such as serotonin, that contribute to appetite, reward and mood regulation were studied but no antidepressant mechanism of chocolate was found.
Most possible psychoactive substances in chocolate are metabolized in the blood by an enzyme (monoamineoxydase A), these substances are unable to pass the blood brain barrier, they are metabolized before they can even reach this barrier. Beta-phenyl-ethylamine is the only possible psychoactive substance in chocolate that passes the blood brain barrier. It is a direct dopamine releasing ingredient. Moreover, cocoa contains caffeine and it’s structural derivatives, these components can have antiparkinsonian effects.
The consumption of chocolate is significantly higher in Parkinson’s Disease patients compared to controls, while consumption of non-chocolate sweets was similar in both groups
The consumption of chocolate was assessed using self questionnaires in patients with Parkinson’s disease (n= 274) and their partners as controls (n=234). Also the consumption of non-chocolate sweets was assessed. Also changes of chocolate and non-chocolate sweet consumption during the disease course was assessed in patients with Parkinson’s disease. All subjects were also asked to fill out the Beck’s depression inventory (BDI) and they were asked for depression in their medical history.
Both depression in medical history and BDI score was higher in the patient group but did not influence the higher chocolate use in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Also medication and other diseases such as diabetes mellitus did not significantly influence chocolate consumption.
A possible explanation for the higher chocolate consumption is patients with Parkinson’s disease might be the high content of biologically active compounds with potential antiparkinsonian effects in cocoa and thus chocolate, such as caffeine and its structural analogous and/or the presence of β-phenylethylamine. This last substance is a direct dopamine releasing ingredient, dopamine is short in Parkinson’s.
Possible limitations of this study:
Only patients from a university based department were included, recall bias or forgetting may play a role with filling out the questionnaire, the two groups were not comparable in age en gender.
Related posts on this blog:
Wolz, M., Kaminsky, A., Löhle, M., Koch, R., Storch, A., & Reichmann, H. (2009). Chocolate consumption is increased in Parkinson’s disease Journal of Neurology, 256 (3), 488-492 DOI: 10.1007/s00415-009-0118-9