Why Does Chocolate Make Us Happy?
The typical breakup scene in a film is followed by a scene where the girl is sitting around in sweats, watching chick flicks, and digging through her third tub of dark chocolate ice cream. According to Hollywood, this combination of actions is the remedy to a broken heart. Although the comfort and distraction that comes from sweats and movies may help, the dark chocolate is key to making someone feel better.
The Center for Human Pharmacology at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia performed a study in which it was determined that certain components of chocolate improved mood and others altered brain patterns. These components is likely tryptophan, which is an amino acid found in chocolate that helps the brain make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and satisfied.
Other components of chocolate that may contribute to a burst of happiness are phenylethylalanine and theobromine. Phenylethylalanine is a natural acting antidepressant and produces the same feelings one may experience when falling in love, such as increased heart rate, alertness, and motivation. Theobromine simulates a high, like that of cannabis, but at a much lower level, thereby producing a relaxing effect and relieving stress.
Other studies have hypothesized that the act of eating is just a way to cope with stress; the fact that dark chocolate is palatable is what makes it a better coping mechanism than other substances.
It is accepted society-wide that chocolate is fun to eat and makes you feel better in a bad situation. This mindset may be what creates the happy emotions in our mind when we eat a few pieces of chocolate. We are eating chocolate, so we must be feeling better because that’s what everyone says is supposed to happen. After all, it is a justification for consuming those calories you were trying so hard to avoid.
Dark chocolate does contain certain components that cause us to feel the same emotions that we would in happy situations by releasing similar chemicals in our brain, but this, combined with the thought of chocolate as a coping mechanism and a miracle cure for a bad mood, is what puts us back in the realm of happy.
- Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. by A. Scholey and L. Owen from PubMed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the US National Library of Medicine <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24117885>
- Immediate effects of chocolate on experimentally induced mood states by M. Macht and J. Mueller from Science Direct <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019566630700298X>
- Why does chocolate make us happy? from Focus Science & Technology by Immediate Media Company, Ltd. <http://www.sciencefocus.com/blog/why-does-chocolate-make-us-happy>
Article by Richa Sheth
Feature Image Source: Chocolate Alchemy