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Does chocolate make you happy by effecting the brain? | silentwellofsorrow's Blog


There are over 300 chemicals that compose chocolate that have numerous and varied effects on our bodies through the nervous system.  Chocolate can affect the brain by causing the release of certain neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the molecules that transmit signals between neurons. The amounts of particular neurotransmitters we have at any given time can have a great impact on our mood. Happy neurotransmitters such as endorphins and other opiates can help to reduce stress and lead to feelings of euphoria. As connections between neurons, they are released from the pre-synaptic membrane and travel across the synaptic clef to react with receptors in the post-synaptic membrane. Receptors are specified to react with particular molecules which can trigger different responses in the connected neurons. The proper neurotransmitter can trigger certain emotions.

  • Chocolate affects the levels of endorphins in the brain. Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, giving credence to the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress
  • Another common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin. Serotonin is known as an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in, among other things, chocolate.
  • Phenylethylamine is called "chocolate amphetamine" and causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness.  It works like amphetamines to increase mood and decrease depression, but it does not result in the same tolerance or addiction. Phenylethylamine is also called the "love drug" because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love.   
  • Anandamide is unique due to its resemblance to THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a chemical found in marijuana. Both activate the same receptor which causes the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which leads to feelings of well being that people associate with a high. Anandamide, found naturally in the brain, breaks down very rapidly. Besides adding to the levels of anandamide, chocolate also contains two other chemicals which work to slow the breakdown of the anandamide, thus extending the feelings of well-being. Even though the anandamide in chocolate helps to create feelings of elation, the effect is not the same as the THC in marijuana. THC reacts with receptors more widely dispersed in the brain and is present in much larger amounts. It would take twenty-five pounds of chocolate to achieve a similar high to that of marijuana.
  • Theobromine is another chemical found in chocolate that can affect the nervous system. Besides having properties that can lead to mental and physical relaxation, it also acts as a stimulant similar to caffeine. It can increase alertness as well as cause headaches. There is much debate as to whether or not caffeine even exists in chocolate. Some scientists believe that it is the less potent theobromine which is solely responsible for the caffeine-like effects.

 

By no means did I do this research, why reinvent the wheel.  I just wanted to add to my glorious chocolate experience this morning.  As Paul Harvey says, go here for the rest of the story......

 

 http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro04/web1/kcoveleskie.html


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