What Is the Connection between Chocolate and Endorphins?
Chocolate has long been held in a class of its own among those who value the culinary arts. If food were the NBA, chocolate would be a perennial all-star. In the world of food, chocolate is Muhammad Ali, the Greek god Zeus, and Jack from Three's Company all at once. This food is regarded in such high fashion, and many experts link its pleasing qualities to endorphins — the neurotransmitters that make people happy.
Chocolate and endorphins have been linked since these "happy" chemicals first came to the attention of the public. Endorphins are neurotransmitters, meaning they are among the kinds of chemicals used by neurons to communicate with one another. Neurotransmitters can affect the way people act and feel, and there are certain events that may trigger the release of specific types of these chemicals, in turn, dictating our behavior.
The link between chocolate and endorphins is strong because the consumption of this sweet cocoa medley can cause the release of the chemical. The greater the release, the more endorphins are active in the nervous system, increasing the probability of the euphoric high characteristic of an endorphin rush. Endorphins are also linked to other foods and experiences. A short list of examples includes spicy foods, exercise, pain, and sexual pleasure. It is easy to see that chocolate and endorphins are not the only associated pair between outer influences and internal chemical release.
Due to the complexity of the nervous system, the exact link between chocolate and endorphins is not completely understood. In fact, the precise mechanism through which neurotransmitters in general affect human behavior is also an evolving understanding. There is, however, a significant amount of research depicting the probable positive link between chocolate consumption and endorphin release. Perhaps this can explain the public obsession over certain foods, including chocolate.
The link between chocolate and endorphins allows for the classification of chocolate as a psychoactive food, meaning it affects the psyche. It is derived from the cocoa bean and commonly altered along the manufacturing line to become what many consider true chocolate. This food is available in a seemingly endless amount of varieties and is frequently combined with other sweet foods to create new culinary luxuries. Chocolate has even been utilized in more savory foods, for example, mole sauce, common in Mexican dishes. There are few foods that seem to grab attention the way chocolate does, and one explanation to its legend is the release of the chemicals of pleasure, endorphins.
What are some other psychoactive foods? I have never heard this term or this concept before but I am really intrigued. I know that I get a little perk any time I eat a really good fresh strawberry or some hot freshly baked bread with butter.
@chivebasil - Good points. I heard a speaker on the radio the other day who was talking about a book that he had just written. His basic thesis is that one of the reasons that obesity is becoming such a problem worldwide is that processed foods are engineered to work on our body like drugs.
They contain careful combinations of fats, salts sugars and starches which have a deep psychological effect on us. They make us feel happy, safe, unbored, all kinds of feeling that go way beyond being hungry or full. So people end up over eating because they are looking for emotion and psychological satisfaction.
I have always heard about the link between chocolate and endorphins but it always seemed to me to be overrated. The scientists make it sound like chocolate is some kind of drug that is going to shoot you off your couch, but really chocolate makes you happy because it tastes good and it is comforting.
I think you get the same feeling from lots of different comfort foods. Maybe a grilled cheese sandwich or a burger. Food in general has a big effect on our mental state and I think sometimes the effects of chocolate get overplayed.
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