Chocolate on the Brain
Posted on Mar 22 2010 at 02:45:10 PM in Food & Drink
Chocolate is a fantastic food for your brain! In a study funded by the Mars, Inc., the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco found that the flavonols found in chocolate and cocoa increase blood flow to the brain. The anandamide in chocolate alter the mental state of the one consuming it. Anandamide comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “bliss”. Quite simply, chocolate makes you feel good.
Another compound found in very small amounts in chocolate is phenethylamine (PEA). PEA stimulates the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins. This is the same kind of “high” you get when you exercise. The PEA also works on the neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure which backs up our idea that chocolate maybe an aphrodisiac. A neurochemical is an organic molecule participating in neural activity. During an orgasm or when we are in love, our body releases PEA to the brain causing that extreme feeling of bliss.
Chocolate also gives you a boost of serotonin into your brain when it is consumed. It helps to relax you which can stave off depression and help you to sleep well. Women have constantly reached for chocolate during their menstrual cycle when serotonin levels are lower due to normal hormonal fluctuations. Something we knew all along, chocolate lifts our spirits!
Chocolate also contains Theobromine which is a naturally occurring substance similar to caffeine. Theobromine affects the brain by increasing alertness, the ability to concentrate and cognitive functioning. Chocolate also contains a blend of over 500 different flavors which is more than two and a half times more flavors present in any other food ever studied. When you want chocolate, you have to have chocolate. There is no substitute!
Further research was conducted by Britain’s University of Nottingham Medical School in a study led by Professor Ian Macdonald. The study was conducted on young healthy women to see if a beverage made from high amounts of cocoa aided in their cognitive function during exceptionally challenging mental tasks. Although the cocoa did not increase their performance on the tests, it did significantly increase the blood flow to their brains for two to three hours after the consumption of the cocoa. Macdonald believes these finding could lead to further studies showing relief for older adults who suffer or are at risk for a variety of cognitive impairments including strokes, sleep deprivation, fatigue, and possibly the aging process.
Dr. Adam Drewnowski, of the University of Michigan’s Human Nutrition Program, found through his research that chocolate may possess analgesic properties triggering the brain’s natural opiates. In Drewnowski’s study, he used a drug to block the opiate receptors in the chocolate eater’s brain. The desire for the chocolate plummeted. What does this mean? Chocolate releases natural opiates in the brain. Chocolate gives you a feeling of bliss.
In research conducted by Daniele Piomelli, his group found that there are three compounds of chocolate that enhance a person’s feeling of pleasure or well-being. All of which confirm what people have know for centuries, chocolate makes you feel better when you are down and depressed. Piomelli advises, when self-medicating with chocolate, to be sure that your choice is either dark chocolate or cocoa as they contain two to three more times as many compounds as those found in milk chocolate. Never substitute chocolate or cocoa for any medication or treatment for any mental illness. Discuss options with your health care professional. A break-up or a few weeks of rain is different that a mental illness, so only medicate with chocolate accordingly.
Another element present in cocoa, and therefore chocolate, is tryptophan. Tryptophan is a natural chemical that we usually associate with turkey and Thanksgiving. This is another mood enhancer similar to serotonin. The presence of tryptophan in the brain is necessary for serotonin to be released in the brain. Your body’s tryptophan reacts with both vitamins B3 and B6 with magnesium to create serotonin. More serotonin in your body allows you to be more relaxed and less stressed. So have your hot cocoa before you go to sleep. It will help you become more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep!
Chocolate also possesses aphrodisiac properties. The reason for this is the naturally occurring compound Arginine found in chocolate. Chocolate has one of the highest levels of Arginine found in any other natural source. Arginine works similarly to the drug Viagra, prescribed for erectile dysfunction. Arginine increases blood flow to the genitals and stimulates sexual desire, thus correlating the relationship between chocolate and the pursuit of sexual pleasure. Chocolate also contains Theobromine and PEA which stimulate the production of dopamine in the body. Dopamine activates the females’ desire for sex. More reasons to both give and eat some chocolate everyday!
Although throughout the ages, cocoa has been blended with other brain altering chemicals such as magic mushrooms, tree barks flowers, Ayahuasca, some cactus species, Quararibea flowers, Cannabis, magnolia blossoms, Salvia divinorum, the Datura flower, Piper auritum, and psychoactive marigolds. These combinations can be extremely dangerous and result in death. These are psychoactive drugs. Don’t let anyone at a health food store or anywhere else tells you that these compounds make your chocolate or cocoa more healthful by adding them. It may very well be the last chocolate you ever eat. Eat your chocolate and cocoa as pure as possible.