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What's your food mood?

| April 29, 2010 9:00 PM

Does chocolate lead to depression, or depression to chocolate? My bet's on the latter, although the latest news for chocoholics establishes only correlation, not causation. The more chocolate you eat, suggests the study, the more depressed you probably are.

This wasn't the first study associating chocolate consumption with dark feelings. In a 2007 British study, more than half of 3,000 surveyed reported chocolate improved their depressed feelings.Chocolate was merely an incidental finding this time. In a clinical study of cholesterol control in 931 men and women, one question addressed chocolate consumption. Others measured mood and other dietary elements. They found that participants who tested positive for depression consumed an average of 8.4 servings of chocolate per month, while those with lower scores averaged 5.4 servings. Those with the highest depression scores had 11.8 servings. Results were published in the April 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

It doesn't take much observation to notice that food affects mood. Stuffing a low mood with chips, burgers, or beer doesn't lead to later pep - more like pooped. Fight temptation and substitute fruit, whole grains, and a salmon sandwich and the later difference is remarkable, especially when it becomes a habit.Food is a conglomeration of chemicals, all of which affect function in the brain and the rest of the body. Production of serotonin, a natural mood regulator, is enhanced by certain vitamins and "good" carbs, such as kidney beans and other legumes, whole grains, and soy.

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to prevent depression when levels are sufficient in the body. Two to three servings of fish, especially salmon, fresh tuna, and other pink fishes, are recommended. Feelings of calmness are associated with simply eating a healthy (low cholesterol) breakfast, such as fruit and yoghurt. Mediterranean diets include all of these; Greece ranks low on the World Health Organization's rankings of countries by depression. The U.S. heads the list.

One man even tried to use the food-mood connection as a defense to a hit-and-run. "Caffeine made me do it" didn't stop the prosecution. While caffeine-induced psychosis, or caffeine intoxication, is a recognized disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it takes more than a quad mocha to fit the bill.Puts a whole new spin on "drink and drive."

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network who learned to love fish. E-mail her at Sholehjo@hotmail.com

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