Eating dark chocolate could reduce risk of depression, study suggests

If you find yourself digging into the Halloween treats a little early, a recent study suggests it may be wise to snag the dark chocolate pieces for yourself. 

Here's the latest takeaway: people who eat dark chocolate may be less depressed. 

Dark chocolate is the good-for-you stuff, that is 50 to 90% cacao. Cacao is rich in plant chemicals called flavanols that may help to protect the body. Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cacao solids than milk chocolate. 

"In the case of dark chocolate, it was particularly powerful. People consuming dark chocolate reduced the risk of depression or had a 70% lower risk of looking depressed on the scales that they used," says Scott Bea, PsyD, with Cleveland Clinic. 

The study looks at data on more than 13,000 adults who took part in a national health and nutrition survey.

Researchers found when people reported eating chocolate, only those who ate dark chocolate had significantly lower odds of depressive symptoms.

Dr. Bea says we're always looking for ways to keep our moods up that don't require a lot of energy. He says research shows vigorous exercise can also boost mood, but of course, eating chocolate doesn't require the same effort.

And while we know dark chocolate has more health benefits than other types of chocolate, it's not really clear if it's the ingredients in dark chocolate that make us happy or if happy people gravitate towards dark chocolate.

"I think most people can say that eating chocolate is generally a pleasurable experience. There aren't too many people that said, 'I had a really bad time-consuming chocolate last night,' so there may be something to the general pleasurable experience." 

Experts suggest you go for 70 percent dark chocolate or higher to get the most flavonols. 

The flavonols are the antioxidant chemicals that may be linked to helping to reduce depression. 

This research is published in the journal 'Depression and Anxiety.'