It is common perception that chocolate is a mood elevator although some people believe that it causes headaches and migraine. Though it is widely accepted that chocolate affects our moods, the research on this is still in a fluid state. Every contention is fiercely debated. We will discuss various ways that chocolate affects our moods and emotions, according to the present set of beliefs.
Chocolate affects us both negatively and positively. Some people, when they are sad or depressed, experience a craving for chocolate. On eating chocolate they report that their mood is elevated and they feel better. This elevation in mood is temporary though and when this effect wears off, they again revert to their previous state of mind.
There are many health benefits that are attributed to chocolates. It is good for the heart. It increases the responsiveness of blood vessels which is useful for preventing heart disease. It also increases glucose tolerance. Chocolate also contains some substances which have an anti oxidant effect. This is helpful in preventing cancer.
Chocolate is reported to cause headache, obesity, rectal itching, heart burn and emotional problems like irritability, confusion, anger and depression.
Chocolate is rich in carbohydrates, which increase the rate with which tryptophan enters the brain. This increases the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates moods, creating a good feeling.
The addictive property of chocolate is also well documented. This is evidenced by the fact that some people, when trying to give up alcohol, depend on chocolate to satisfy their cravings. This drug-like property is attributed to caffeine, anandamines, phenylethylamine and magnesium that are present in chocolate. The presence of caffeine and magnesium can contribute to a feeling of craving for chocolate. Ananadmides affect the brain in a similar way to marijuana, though research in this field is still debated.
There are more than 350 chemicals in chocolate. Some of these are believed to cause allergic reactions. Some scientists believe that phenylethylamine and theobromine could cause changes in moods. Phenylethylamine causes blood pressure and blood sugar to rise. It generates a feeling of alertness and contentment thus creating a feeling of well being. But, a short period of emotional high is followed by a period of emotional low. Theobromine is found naturally in cocoa and acts as an anti-depressant, but has been known to be toxic to animals.
Eating chocolate can also give rise to a feeling of anxiety. Phenylethylamine is said to cause dilation of blood vessels in brain causing headaches. Though it is still debatable whether phenylethylamine reaches the brain.
One ounce of chocolate contains 20 mg of caffeine. Researches on the effects of caffeine have reported that caffeine can cause problems in sleep, restlessness, irritability, heartburn and anxiety. Withdrawal from caffeine causes fatigue and headaches.
Tyramine is another amino acid present in chocolate. Though it is not certain whether any significant amount of tyramine reaches the brain, yet it is known that it causes blood vessels to expand and contract causing dull headaches.
Women appear to crave chocolate more than men, including diabetics. Some amongst these women reported that only chocolate and nothing else could satisfy their craving. The presence of magnesium in chocolate can account for the fact that during PMS (Post Menstrual Syndrome) craving for chocolate increases in women, as during this period a deficiency of magnesium may arise.
With all this contradictory information on the effects of chocolate on mood, one has to observe from one’s experiences and decide whether chocolate is right for one. But, certainly, large amounts of chocolate will effect us physically or emotionally one way or another.