Chocolate’s chemistry makes it a Valentines Day “love drug”
Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 19:02
As Valentine’s Day approaches, there are undoubtedly two things on every woman’s mind: love and chocolate.
Chocolate is known as the woman’s go-to comfort food, helping to elevate mood and cheer her up when she’s feeling down.
Believe it or not, the idea that eating chocolate can be euphoric is not a myth.
Chocolate has been scientifically proven to have mood-enhancing properties credited to several drug-like chemicals that have nicknamed chocolate “the love drug.”
Chocolate contains over 300 compounds that affect the brain to create many of the same sensations associated with love. These compounds stimulate the mind and promote feelings of happiness, while reducing stress and pain.
Why does this sweet treat have such an immense impact on the mind and body?
Chocolate triggers the release of endorphins and serotonin.
While endorphins are known to lessen pain and decrease stress, serotonin serves as an anti-depressant.
Serotonin is the brain’s “feel good” chemical. Known for increasing one’s sexual pleasure, serotonin also boosts an individual’s mood, emotional health and helps provide sufficient sleep and a balanced diet.
Lower serotonin levels are commonly the result of depression while increased serotonin raises sexual excitement, desire and responsiveness.
Chocolate also contains traces of caffeine that help promote these feelings and stimulate the mind. A 50 gram piece of dark chocolate typically contains between 10 and 60 milligrams of caffeine, as compared with a five ounce cup of coffee, which can have up to 180 milligrams.
Nevertheless, the caffeine found in chocolate produces a stimulant effect.
Caffeine enhances alertness and decreases feelings of fatigue. Additionally, caffeine helps to improve an individual’s overall mood while enhancing both cardiovascular and respiratory functions.
In addition to these neurotransmitters, chocolate contains a number of other stimulants that contribute to these feel good reactions.
Anandamide’s name derives from the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ which suitably means bliss. This chemical is naturally produced in the brain and causes the production of dopamine, which promotes feelings of happiness, elation and produces a feeling of euphoria.
Since chocolate contains only a slight amount of caffeine, it gets its caffeine-like effects from a compound called theobromine. The difference, however, is that theobromine does not have the same addictive effects on the body that caffeine does.
Additionally, theobromine possesses antidepressant effects and an increased feeling of well-being.
Probably the most influential love compound in chocolate is phenethylamine. Found only in small quantities, this chemical stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. Phenylethyamine also triggers the release of dopamine, a neurochemical directly linked with sexual arousal and pleasure.
The chemical acts as an antidepressant and rises during periods of romance.
The giddy, restless feelings that occur when we are in love are due to a great extent to phenylethyamine, which significantly increases in the brain during that time.
Not only is chocolate known as a “love drug,” but it also has numerous effects on the brain that have proven to increase one’s health and overall well-being.
This is primarily due to a key ingredient found in dark chocolate called flavanols, which boost blood flow to specific areas of the brain and help increase an individual’s performance levels and general alertness over a short period of time.
Besides treating a number of cardiovascular functions such as dementia and strokes, the cocoa flavanols can also be beneficial in enhancing brain function for people fighting fatigue, sleep deprivation, as well as aging. How exactly could one ingredient have such a profound impact on the mind and body?
The effect is linked to dilation of cerebral blood vessels that allow more blood, and oxygen to reach and target these important parts of the brain.
Aside from chocolate, flavanols can be found in other substances that we consume on a daily basis such as red wine, green tea and blueberries.
The chocolate “love drug” possesses countless qualities known to promote positive moods, decrease stress and pain, and increase general well-being. But do its drug-like affects also possess a sense of addiction to it’s users?
Many people are convinced that chocolate can be addictive because of its mood-boosting properties and people’s constant cravings for the treat.
However there has been much suspicion over whether chocolate, like the drugs with similar chemicals and effects, can be addictive.
After much investigation, the majority of researchers have concluded that chocolate is not an addictive substance.
So head to the store this Valentine’s Day without guilt and buy yourself or your loved one what is on everyone’s mind this season—a big box of chocolates.