Chocolate and Your Brain
The Feel Good Factor
Eating chocolate makes us feel good. But why exactly? Is it the taste? Is there something inside the chocolate? Researchers are trying to answer all these questions.
This is what they do know: chocolate contains more than 500 natural chemical compounds, some of which have been categorized as mood-elevating and pleasure-inducing.
Following is a list of the compounds believed to have some effects on the brain.
Chocolate is one of nature's most concentrated sources of theobromine, a mild, natural stimulant and molecular "cousin" of caffeine. However, unlike its cousin, theobromine does not strongly stimulate the central nervous system, nor does it have the same "eye-opening" power.
Theobromine has also been shown to reduce coughing and has been used in "natural" cough medicine preparations as a cough suppressant. The level of theobromine found to be effective in clinical trials is roughly 5 times higher than what is found in a typical bar of dark chocolate. While safe for humans, other species, such as dogs, lack the specific enzyme that metabolizes theobromine so eating chocolate can cause them to become overstimulated. It is strongly recommended that pet owners prevent dogs from eating chocolate.
Chocolate contains relatively small amounts of caffeine, about as much as a cup of decaffeinated coffee. A 1.5 ounce milk chocolate bar has 11 mg of caffeine, while a similar-sized dark chocolate bar has 27 mg of caffeine. In contrast, a 12-ounce mug of coffee has 200 mg.
This compound may be responsible for some of the pleasurable feelings you get after eating chocolate because it releases natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins in your brain. PEA is released by the brain when people are falling in love. Perhaps this explains why chocolate and Valentines Day are so closely linked.