What is it about chocolate that makes us, particularly women, become chocoholics? There are many many chemical compounds at work, over 300, that make chocolate highly addictive. For one thing, chocolate contains caffeine and sugar, both logical culprits. There is also the “love chemical” that makes chocolate an aphrodisiac, Phenylethylamine, which releases dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain stimulating feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness, and euphoria. Chocolate also contains a neurotransmitter, Serotonin, that acts as an anti-depressant. Other substances, such as Theobromine and Anandamide, have a stimulating effect. And, like other palatable sweet foods, consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural opiates. Enhanced endorphin-release reduces the chocolate-eater's sensitivity to pain.
Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate and cocoa, have been also been found to help:
- Fight tooth decay (Of course, this is counteracted by the high sugar content of milk chocolate).
- Raise good cholesterol.
- Keep blood vessels elastic and improves circulation.
- Decrease blood pressure.
- Increases antioxidant levels in the blood.
- Metabolise sugar - a problem for people with diabetes.
- Lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Improve digestion and stimulate kidneys.
Next week's topic: Cinnamon...