It’s been a stressful day, maybe you’re even a little sad. You get home and open your pantry, hoping to find something that will finally make you feel better. Diet be damned, that chocolate bar is tempting you. A little piece, then another….
You are pleased now. You’re finally starting to feel better.
Because of the chocolate?
Chocolate is a food derived from the seeds of the cocoa tree, properly roasted and processed to obtain the final product.
This food can bring numerous benefits: the active ingredients contained therein, in fact, act in different ways on our body. The result? An obvious feeling of well-being after its intake.
But what substances are involved and what chemical mediators are produced?
The word anandamide has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. It means “extreme happiness, one of the highest states of being”.
Fairly recent studies have discovered an endogenous cannabinoid system, that is present within our body, where small lipid molecules communicate through two types of receptors. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the nervous system and brain, and CB2 receptors in various organs and peripheral tissues. These endocannabinoids appear to have numerous physiological actions. They act on mood, memory, pain perception, appetite, and cognitive processes. However, they also appear to be important at specific times of life, such as during pregnancy.
Anandamide is the main chemical mediator of these endocannabinoids. It is synthesized in our body from arachidonic acid, a molecule essential for inflammatory processes.
In other words, these endogenous cannabinoids are therefore comparable (to a certain extent) to exogenous cannabinoids. Among them we can mention THC – or tetrahydrocannabinol – known as the most active principle of Cannabis. Anandamide present in chocolate can therefore cause similar physiological effects such as relaxation and sensation of happiness.
Although the positive effect of anandamide is intense, its duration of action is short.
Phenylethylamine is a molecule similar to amphetamines, with similar pharmacological effects: it binds to the same receptors in the brain. It gives a feeling of energy and wakefulness, matched by euphoria and well-being. It is also referred to as the love drug since high levels of PEA have been recorded during the stages of falling in love. This could also explain the aphrodisiac effects of chocolate.
Endorphins are endogenous opioids that we produce naturally by means of the pituitary gland. They are mainly involved in the regulation of pain and pleasure. The release of endorphins caused by the intake of chocolate (but also during many pleasant activities such as hugging, kissing, petting our pets, playing sports) gives a high feeling of bliss.
Theobromine is an alkaloid belonging to the class of methylxanthines, along with caffeine and theophylline. Xanthines act on the central nervous system stimulating it, giving a dose of energy, increasing concentration and reducing fatigue.
Tryptophan and Tyramine
Tryptophan is an amino-acid, contained in small amounts in chocolate. Since it’s the precursor to serotonin, known as the happiness hormone (we’ve talked about it extensively here), having high tryptophan availability means more opportunity to synthesize serotonin, making us feel happier after drinking a good chocolate cup or tasting a delicious slice of chocolate cake.
Tyramine, a derivative of tyrosine, is also present. This is instead used to synthesize dopamine, the hormone of reward and feeling satisfied.
So, if you had a bad day and nothing seems to cheer you up, do not despair. Try with chocolate: but be sure not to exaggerate! Choose dark chocolate, which has a higher content in cocoa and less sugar and added fats.
Bent the rules is right sometimes… definitely for the heart.
Vianne: And these are for your husband. Raw cocoa nuts from Guatemala, to awaken the passion.
Yvette: Psshh, clearly you’ve never met my husband.
Vianne: You’ve clearly never tried these.
PS. Sorry, I’m keen on The Chocolate Factory.
And even more of Johnny Depp.
Source text: https://www.antropia.it/perche-mangiare-cioccolata-ed-essere-un-po-piu-felici/
Ciao, mi chiamo Martina e sono laureata in Lingue. Le mie passioni principali gravitavano da sempre intorno a letteratura, cultura, linguistica, viaggi, così ho deciso di intraprendere la strada della traduzione, specializzandomi grazie ad un Master. Adoro leggere, pratico beachvolley e amo stare a contatto con la natura.