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:
In 16% of migraine sufferers, chocolate, red wine, beer, or cheese can bring on attacks.
Based on information in: Nutrition Today, May/June 1998 Excerpted from Spectrum Magazine
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