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A loud snap made them all jump. Professor Lupin was breaking an enormous slab of chocolate into pieces.

‘Here,’ he said to Harry, handing him a particularly large piece. ‘Eat it. It’ll help.’

Prisoner of Azkaban - page 67 - UK Hardcover

Throughout the Harry Potter series, chocolate is used as the main treatment for contact with a Dementor, which we know is an analogy for depression.

Is there any scientific basis for JK Rowling using chocolate as a medical and psychological treatment in the HP series?

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    I think this would be more suitable on skeptics.SE or biology.SE than here. – Konrad Rudolph Jan 27 '12 at 10:31
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    @KonradRudolph - I think it's fine to ask about the science behind the fiction on a science fiction/fantasy forum. :) – Slytherincess Jan 27 '12 at 12:13
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    But the answers on the other platforms are potentially much better, both because they demand stricter standards of evidence and because they have a lot of subject experts. – Konrad Rudolph Jan 27 '12 at 13:34
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    I suspect Harry Potter wouldn't constitute a "notable source" on skeptics.se. – Beofett Jan 27 '12 at 18:29
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    I never thought a question about chocolate would prove to be so controversial! :) – Slytherincess Jan 28 '12 at 16:48
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Chocolate has been shown to contain a number of different stimulants and chemicals (see below) that may trigger the release of endogenous endorphins ("endogenous morphine"). However, the antidepressant effects of chocolate seem to have been exaggerated in popular culture. A review article by Parker et al.1 notes that the concentrations of certain psychoactive ingredients are too low to have a significant effect. The paper concludes:

For most people chocolate invokes anticipatory and consummatory pleasure, and is therefore an indulgence. When taken in response to a dysphoric state as an ‘emotional eating’ strategy it may provide some transient ‘comforting’ role but it is more likely to prolong rather than abort the dysphoric mood. It is not, as some would claim, an antidepressant.

So, while chocolate may provide some mild and transient stimulatory effect, it does not appear to be an effective antidepressant.

However, the known presence of psychoactive chemicals in chocolate (albeit in small quantities) does provide some scientific basis for Rowling's use of it as a medical and psychological treatment. A speculative in-universe explanation could be that chocolate simply has additional magical properties that make its inherent chemicals more effective, or perhaps these chemicals are more effective on the magically inclined even at lower concentrations.


  1. Mood state effects of chocolate. Parker G, Parker I, Brotchie H. J Affect Disord. 2006 Jun;92(2-3):149-59.

Chemicals in chocolate:

  • Good quality chocolate is a very healthy food. Cheap stuff, with lots of fat, is not, which is one place it gets a bad reputatiom from. However, good strong dark chocolate is rather bitter. – Schroedingers Cat Jan 27 '12 at 9:47

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