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  • Those who crave chocolate tend to do so when they are emotionally distressed. A second consideration is whether feelings of guilt are associated with the consumption of chocolate.
  • There are two major explanations of chocolate craving. First, it results from a pleasant taste. Second, it reflects physiological mechanisms. It has been suggested that these may include increased serotonin production, the release of endorphins, the actions of methylxanthines, phenylethylamine and the supply of magnesium.
  • There are repeated suggestions that a high intake of carbohydrate will increase the ratio of tryptophan to LNAAs in the blood. An increased intake of tryptophan by the brain is suggested to increase the synthesis of serotonin and hence improve mood. Although the phenomenon can be demonstrated in the laboratory, a food item that contains any more than a minimal level of protein does not stimulate this mechanism. Chocolate contains protein in levels too high for this mechanism to function. In fact, if this mechanism is active chocolate will decrease rather than increase serotonin synthesis.
  • Drugs that block the action of endorphins decrease the intake of palatable foods such as chocolate. The most plausible biological explanation is that chocolate, in a similar manner to other palatable foods, induces the release of brain endorphins.
  • Chocolate contains the methylxanthines theobromine and caffeine. However, the levels are so small that it is unlikely that they influence mood.
  • Phenylethylamine has powerful pharmacological properties that are similar to amphetamine. However, the active dose is so large, and the rate at which it is broken down so rapid, that the amount supplied by chocolate cannot influence mood.
  • Neither the administration of the pharmacological constituents of chocolate nor white chocolate are able to satisfy chocolate craving. It seems, therefore, that the major factor that underlies chocolate craving is the hedonic experience.
  • The attraction of chocolate lies in its taste. Sweet, fatty food items have a pleasant taste; chocolate approaches the ideal combination of sweetness and fat content. Pleasant-tasting foods induce the release of endorphins in the brain.

1. Hetherington, M.M. and MacDiarmid, J.I. (1993) Chocolate addiction: a preliminary study of its description and its relationship to problem eating. Appetite 21, 233246.

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