Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate Cravings’

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Chocolate

Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

If you’re like most women, you’re totally smitten with chocolate. People have been obsessing over this comfort food for thousands of years (the Mayans considered cacao a cure-all and the Aztecs used it as money). And all that obsessing has yielded some pretty surprising studies–and findings. Here are five things you need to know about your favorite indulgence.

1. It Can Boost Your Workout
Skip the expensive sports drinks and protein shakes. Research shows chocolate milk is just as effective a recovery aid.

A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism compared the effects of a recovery drink and chocolate milk on endurance athletes’ ability to recover after a series of bike sprints followed by an endurance ride the next day. They found that chocolate milk was just as effective at relieving muscle soreness after the sprints, and preparing the athletes to perform in the endurance test the next day. Better yet, everyone preferred the taste of chocolate milk.

2. Your Period Doesn’t Make You Crave It
Half of American women experience chocolate cravings. Of those who do, about half crave it right around “that” time of the month.

And while it’s nice to have your menstrual cycle to blame when you find yourself noshing on half a package of chocolate chip cookies, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that menstrual hormones aren’t the culprit. They compared the cravings of pre- and post-menopausal women and didn’t find any change. They did, however, find a higher prevalence of cravings among women who suffer from PMS.

Why? Annmarie Kostyk, a chocolate expert who studied at the Professional School of Chocolate Arts, Ecole Chocolat, in Canada, says this has a lot to do with the psychology behind comfort foods. “Chocolate is sociologically considered a comfort food, and people crave comfort foods when they feel terrible,” she says.

3. It Won’t Wake You Up
It’s a common misconception that chocolate is packed with caffeine, says Kostyk. In reality, the amount of caffeine in chocolate is miniscule compared to what’s in your other daily pick-me-ups.

An ounce of dark chocolate contains about 20 milligrams of caffeine, while an ounce of milk chocolate contains about 5 milligrams–the same as an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee. In comparison, a cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams and a cup of tea contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine.

4. It Contains Flavonoids
Flavowhats? Flavonoids are a type of phytochemical, or plant chemical, that are found naturally in chocolate. Due to their unique chemical structures, flavonoids can exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cell-protective effects, says Giana Angelo, Ph.D., a research associate who specializes in micronutrient research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Consuming foods rich in flavonoids has also been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

To reap the benefits, stick to dark chocolate. The average commercial dark chocolate contains about 60 percent cocao and has been found to contain 536 milligrams of flavonoids per 1.4-ounce serving. Research has shown that as few as 80 milligrams of flavonoids a day can lower blood pressure.

5. It’s Not All Bad for Your Teeth
How could a food that’s long been touted as a cavity-causer actually have teeth-protecting properties? It turns out that theobromine, an organic molecule that occurs naturally in cocoa, can help strengthen tooth enamel, according to research from Tulane University.

In fact, it takes 142 times less cocao extract to have about twice the protective benefits of fluoride, according to the American Dental Association. Unfortunately, theobromine isn’t too beneficial in chocolate bars, where the sugar and milk counteract the dental benefits. Enter Theodent, a fluoride-free mint toothpaste that packs a punch of theobromine.

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CHOCOLATE: The Psychoactive Cocktail

Friday, September 9th, 2011
Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique
Author of Ed Engoron’s Choclatique, Running Press, 2011

Choclatique by Ed EngoronLast week I shared with you many of the facts and myths, past and present, about everything chocolate. These were carefully researched during the exploration phase of writing my new book Choclatique (Running Press, 2011). Hopefully you’ve already had a chance to impress many of your friends with the facts that could win you big money when playing Trivial Pursuit.

As noted last week, there are more than 300 different constituent compounds in chocolate that have been identified. Chocolate clearly delivers far more than a brief sugar high. Yet its cocktail of psychochemical effects on the central nervous system are poorly understood.

So how does it work?

  • Chocolate contains small quantities of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid found in the brain. Skeptics claim one would need to consume several pounds of chocolate to gain any very noticeable psychoactive effects; and eat a lot more to get fully stoned. Yet it’s worth noting that N-oleolethanolamine and N-linoleoylethanolamine, two structural cousins of anandamide present in chocolate, both inhibit the metabolism of anandamide. It has been speculated that they promote and prolong the feeling of well-being induced by anandamide.
  • Chocolate contains caffeine. But the caffeine is present only in modest quantities. It is easily obtained from other sources. Indeed a whole ounce of milk chocolate contains no more caffeine than a typical cup of “decaffeinated” coffee.

Chocolate’s theobromine content may contribute to—but seems unlikely to determine—its subtle but distinctive psychoactive profile. Surprisingly, perhaps, recent research suggests that pure theobromine may be superior to opiates as a cough medicine due to its action on the vagus nerve.

  • Chocolate also contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is the rate-limiting step in the production of the mood-modulating neurotransmitter serotonin. Enhanced serotonin function typically diminishes anxiety. Yet tryptophan can normally be obtained from other sources as well; and only an unusually low-protein, high-carbohydrate meal will significantly increase its rate of intake into the brain.
  • Love CollectionLike other palatable sweet foods, consumption of chocolate triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s endogenous opiates. Enhanced endorphin-release reduces the chocolate-eater’s sensitivity to pain. Endorphins probably contribute to the warm inner glow induced in susceptible chocoholics. This sensation explains why chocolate gifts are a great way to bring joy to a loved one.
  • Acute monthly cravings for chocolate amongst pre-menstrual women may be partly explained by its rich magnesium content. Magnesium deficiency exacerbates PMT. Before menstruation, too, levels of the hormone progesterone are high. Progesterone promotes fat storage, preventing its use as fuel; elevated pre-menstrual levels of progesterone may cause a periodic craving for fatty foods. One study reported that 91% of chocolate-cravings associated with the menstrual cycle occurred between ovulation and the start of menstruation. Chocolate cravings are admitted by 15% of men and around 40% of women. Cravings are usually most intense in the late afternoon and early evening.
  • Cacao and chocolate bars contain a group of neuroactive alkaloids known as tetrahydro-beta-carbolines. Tetrahydro-beta-carbolines are also found in beer, wine and liquor; they have been linked to alcoholism. But the possible role of these chemicals in chocolate addiction remains unclear.
  • A UK study of the human electroencephalographic (EEG) response to chocolate suggests that the odor of chocolate significantly reduces theta activity in the brain. Reduced theta activity is associated with enhanced relaxation.
  • Perhaps chocolate’s key ingredient is its phenylethylamine (PEA) “love-chemical.” Yet the role of the “chocolate amphetamine” is disputed. Most, if not all chocolate-derived phenylethylamine is metabolised before it reaches the CNS. Some people may be sensitive to its effects in very small quantities.
  • Phenylethylamine is itself a naturally occurring trace amine in the brain. Phenylethylamine releases dopamine in the mesolimbic pleasure-centers; it peaks during orgasm. Taken in unnaturally high doses, phenylethylamine can produce stereotyped behavior more prominently even than amphetamine. Phenylethylamine has distinct binding sites but no specific neurons. It helps mediate feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness, apprehension and euphoria; but confusingly, phenylethylamine has also been described as an endogenous anxiogen. One of its metabolites is unusually high in subjects with paranoid schizophrenia.
  • There is even a phenylethylamine theory of depression. Monoamine oxidase type-B has been described as phenylethylaminase; and taking a selective MAO-B inhibitor, such as selegiline (l-deprenyl, Eldepryl) or rasagiline (Azilect) can accentuate chocolate’s effects. Some subjects report that bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) reduces their chocolate-cravings; but other chocoholics dispute this.

I hope you took good notes and got all because there’s going to be a pop quiz next period. You didn’t get all? Then there’s only one solution. Take if from the doctor—The ChocolateDoctor—take two truffles and call me in the morning.

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