The Chocolate-Love Connection
From long before Montezuma’s 50-cup-a-day habit in the 16th century to today’s obsession with varietal dark chocolate at any price, it’s obvious there’s something compelling and perhaps addictive about chocolate.
Chocolate contains hundreds of chemical components, some of which are known stimulants and mood enhancers. While chocolate does contain a small amount of caffeine, its main stimulant is theobromine, which is related to caffeine but affects heart rate more than the nervous system. Both are 2-3 times higher in bittersweet chocolate than milk chocolate and both are addictive, although theobromine to a much lesser extent.
Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which is related to amphetamines and has anti-depressive properties. It’s prevalent in our brains when we fall in love, but the amount that gets to the brain after eating chocolate is insignificant due to its deactivation after consumption. The same goes for compounds that either bind to cannabinoid receptors or increase serotonin levels in the brain (the “feel good chemical”). It’s likely that some physiological effect and a lot of cultural/culinary/psychological appeal is what makes us consume 11+ pounds of chocolate a year on average.