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WHATS IN CHOCOLATE THAT MAKES US FEEL SO GOOD?
ANANDAMIDE-- Chocolate contains small quantities of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid found in the brain. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter that targets the same brain structures as THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. But to make a substantial impact on the brain's own natural anandamide levels, experts estimate you would need to eat several kilos of chocolate! Neuroscientist Daniele Piomelli suggests that chocolate works more indirectly to produce its 'high'. As well as anandamide itself, chocolate contains two chemicals known to slow the breakdown of anandamide. Chocolate might therefore work by prolonging the action of this natural stimulant in the brain.
THEOBROMINE -- Theobromine is a stimulant frequently confused with caffeine. Theobromine affects humans similarly to caffeine, but on a much smaller scale. Theobromine is mildly diuretic (increases urine production), is a mild stimulant, and relaxes the smooth muscles of the bronchi in the lungs. In the human body, theobromine levels are halved between 6-10 hours after consumption. Because of its ability to dilate blood vessels, theobromine also has been used to treat high blood pressure. Theobromine has very different effects on the human body from caffeine; it is a mild, lasting stimulant with a mood improving effect, whereas caffeine has a strong, immediate effect and increases stress. A normal portion of chocolate exhibits psychopharmacological activity.
PHENYLETHYLAMINE---phenylethylamine has earned the nickname 'chocolate amphetamine.' High levels of this neurotransmitter help promote feelings of attraction, excitement, giddiness and apprehension. Phenylethylamine works by stimulating the brain's pleasure centres and reaches peak levels during orgasm. Chocolate has the highest concentration in any food of phenylethylamine, which is the chemical produced in the brain when a person is in love. 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.
TETRAHYDRO-BETA-CARBOLINES C(THbetaCs) 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.
EPICATECHIN (FLAVENOID) --Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that have been shown to have a number of health-benefiting properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and anti-cancer activity. Cocoa, especially dark chocolate, has high amounts of the flavonoid Epicatechin and has been found to have nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea. Epicatechin may improve blood flow and may have potential applications for cardiac health. Two recent clinical trials have found that cocoa flavanols can boost the flow of blood to key areas of the brain, giving scientists hope for developing treatments for dementia and strokes. Another study found potential applications for treating blood circulation problems associated with long-term diabetes.
Recent studies have shown that cocoa or dark chocolate has potent health benefits for people. Dark chocolate is full of the flavonoids epicatechin and gallic acid, which are antioxidants that help protect blood vessels, promote cardiac health, and prevent cancer. It also has been effectively demonstrated to counteract mild hypertension. In fact, dark chocolate has more flavonoids than any other antioxidant-rich food such as red wine, green and black tea, and blueberries. There has even been a fad diet named "Chocolate diet" that emphasises eating chocolate & cocoa powder in capsules. However, consuming milk chocolate or white chocolate, or drinking milk with dark chocolate appears to largely negate the health benefits. Chocolate is also a calorie-rich food, with a high content of saturated fat, so daily intake of chocolate also requires reducing caloric intake of other foods. See: "Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine."
Abstract: Black tea, green tea, red wine, and cocoa are high in phenolic phytochemicals, among which theaflavin, epigallocatechin gallate, resveratrol, and procyanidin, respectively, have been extensively investigated due to their possible role as chemopreventive agents based on their antioxidant capacities. The present study compared the phenolic and flavonoid contents and total antioxidant capacities of cocoa, black tea, green tea, and red wine. Cocoa contained much higher levels of total phenolics (611 mg of gallic acid equivalents, GAE) and flavonoids (564 mg of epicatechin equivalents, ECE) per serving than black tea (124 mg of GAE and 34 mg of ECE, respectively), green tea (165 mg of GAE and 47 mg of ECE), and red wine (340 mg of GAE and 163 mg of ECE). Total antioxidant activities were measured using the 2,2'-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) (ABTS) and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging assays and are expressed as vitamin C equivalent antioxidant capacities (VCEACs). Cocoa exhibited the highest antioxidant activity among the samples in ABTS and DPPH assays, with VCEACs of 1128 and 836 mg/serving, respectively. The relative total antioxidant capacities of the samples in both assays were as follows in decreasing order: cocoa > red wine > green tea > black tea. The total antioxidant capacities from ABTS and DPPH assays were highly correlated with phenolic content (r 2 = 0.981 and 0.967, respectively) and flavonoid content (r 2 = 0.949 and 0.915). These results suggest that cocoa is more beneficial to health than teas and red wine in terms of its higher antioxidant capacity.
PROCYANIDINS (procyanidins -- Data from this short-term investigation support the concept that certain food-derived flavonoids can favorably alter eicosanoid synthesis in humans, providing a plausible hypothesis for a mechanism by which they can decrease platelet activation in humans. Chocolate procyanidins decrease the leukotriene-prostacyclin ratio in humans and human aortic endothelial cells1,2,3
TRYPTOPHAN -- is a chemical that the brain uses to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy.
Like 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 chocaholics.
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