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Chocolate"” The Drug of Choice

Considered the food of the gods by the ancient Mayans, chocolate is irresistible to 40% of women (more during the time of menstruation) and 15% of men. This addictive craving for chocolate may be due, in part, to the mood-altering power of several of its components.

One of chocolate's more interesting constituents is phenylethylamine. This amphetamine-like substance selectively raises tryptophan uptake in the brain, and higher levels of tryptophan elevate brain neurochemicals associated with pleasure. Phenylethylamine is also suspected of being the chemical mediator of the "falling in love" feeling, which may explain chocolate's alleged aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec king Montezuma was said to have drunk a golden goblet full of cocoa beverage each night before entering his harem.

Other chemicals found in chocolate have the ability to bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, mimicking the psychoactive effects of marijuana. However, it is not known if these chemicals exist in high enough amounts in chocolate to produce such effects. Since cannabinoid drugs produce euphoria and heighten sensitivity, it is possible that the cannabinoid-like chemicals in chocolate may contribute to the addictive desire that it engenders. Chocolate has been implicated in several diseases, but in some cases this charge appears unjustified. Here are some of chocolate's good and bad points:

  • Chocolate contains saturated cocoa fat, and saturated fat is associated with heart disease. But cocoa fat does not produce nearly the elevation of blood fats that butter or beef fat does.

  • Cocoa has antioxidant properties similar to vitamin E, and may enhance immune function.
    In 16% of migraine sufferers, chocolate, red wine, beer, or cheese can bring on attacks.

  • Chocolate increases the symptoms of some women suffering with severe PMS.

  • There is no evidence that chocolate causes acne.

  • Chocolate may increase kidney stone formation. Those with a history of this disease are advised to drink a lot of water when consuming chocolate, or to avoid it altogether.

    Based on information in: Nutrition Today, May/June 1998 Excerpted from Spectrum Magazine

    The information on this website is not a substitute for diagnosis and treatment by a qualified, licensed professional.
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    I'm a former Lindt and Godiva chocolate addict. And believe it or not, when I was a teenager, I once ate an entire bag of Reeses peanut butter cups, in one setting! That's how much I loved chocolate. Now that I'm health consciousness, however, I don't eat chocolate at all, because it's difficult to find chocolate without the processed sugar, milk, eggs, and perservatives that are often added to the chocolate for taste. Pure chocolate is very bitter, and so sugar is added to weaken the the bitter taste. Carob is a great chocolate substitute. I've had carob clusters with walnuts before. Carob tastes great, but its no substitute for chocolate, in my opinion.
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