Have you ever wondered why it feels so good to eat chocolate when we’re down? Or why chocolate is so addictive without being a drug?
In actual fact, chocolate contains over 300 well-known chemicals, the most famous of which is caffeine, which would explain why high school students staying up learning for tests indulge in masses of dark chocolate to get them through the night. There is less caffeine in chocolate than in coffee, but when this combines with theobromine, another stimulant, this is what gives you that chocolate “buzz.”
Other studies, however, have unearthed some other interesting substances in chocolate that explain the magical feeling we associate with this amazing food. Phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamines, is also found in chocolate.
But most interestingly of all, a 1996 study carried out at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, Calif., discovered that chocolate contains anandamide, which is also produced naturally in the brain, and other elements of its composition inhibit the breakdown of this chemical. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that may be responsible for the high that we feel whenever we eat chocolate. While eating chocolate doesn’t make us feel high, the anandamide within it is what makes us feel so good.
Perhaps it is not surprising when we hear someone refer to himself as a “chocoholic,” and it does raise the question of how we would define chocolate. Chocolate is hardly a food, but it is neither a drug nor a medicine. Perhaps the best way to describe chocolate would be as an edible indulgence or a magical treat.