Chocolate: How much is too much?
Life Style

Chocolate: How much is too much?


Chocolates! Yum! Hearing the word itself makes us crave our favourite chocolate. Not only children in fact adults are also very much in love with all types of chocolates. More or less, we know that chocolates are made from roasted and fermented cocoa beans. Chocolate makers make these beans into a pasty fluid and pour it onto any surface to harden within the required temperature. This is a long process and hence we all are in love with such a beautiful thing which creates a feeling of pleasure in our brain. Chocolates are reported to have certain mood-enhancing properties and certain mechanisms that help establish a relationship between chocolates and mood.

Well to be precise, chocolates contain a psychoactive ingredient that produces a feeling of euphoria which is quite similar to the cannabinoid found in cannabis. In experimental evidence, it was found that a mood euphoric only happens when the chocolate is pleasant to eat. All type of chocolates contains various flavours and chemicals dark chocolate has higher amount and concentrations of flavonoids and antioxidant chemicals which has been seen to play an important role in the onset of depression and reduce the odds of clinically depressive symptoms.

An antidote to depression

If we see, depression is a global issue. Scientists have been working for many years with controlled variables including ethnicity, marital status, weight, height, income levels, education, health conditions and other daily habits. Various studies analysed dark chocolate and non-dark chocolate and their relations with depression. A study conducted by a team of researchers from Finland with few expectant mothers found that munching chocolate during that stage can affect the behaviour of the babies.

During their study, their stress level and the amount of their consumption of chocolates were tracked down. They interrogated the mothers regarding their behaviour and it was found that babies whose mothers ate chocolate during pregnancy were much more welcoming to new environments; they smiled more often and seemed to be more active. They concluded that these could be the results of the chemicals present in chocolates.

Chemicals present in chocolate

Chocolate can be a mood enhancer. There are various chemicals present in chocolates. They have various mechanisms that explain the antidepressant effects of eating chocolate.

  1. Flavonoids- These are mostly found in dark chocolates. They are found in apples, citrus food, green tea, black tea, and also in berries and are associated with improvement of cognition and mood.
  2. Phenylethylamine- it is a natural monoamine that helps in releasing dopamine, norepinephrine and acetylcholine.
  3. Theo bromine and Caffeine- Theo bromine is a heart stimulant that is similar to caffeine. It acts as a stimulant as well as a vasodilator. The main source of Theo bromine is cocoa. It is very useful in the management of orthostatic hypotension and also in the management of fatigue and gives us the “feel-good “effect by making us feel more active and focused by relieving stress.
  4. N- acylethanolamines- it is a kind of fatty acid amide. Due to the increase in circulation of endocannabinoids (eCBs) with anxiolytics, it releases euphoric effects and is responsible for increasing appetite, mood, neuroprotection and enhancing memory.
Health Benefits of Chocolate

According to the European Food Safety Authority, they said that simple cocoa flavanols help in maintaining normal blood pressure. Focusing a part on dark chocolate as well, it is a source of magnesium. Magnesium helps in reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Consuming chocolate also releases Tryptophan. The body normally uses it to produce mood-elevating hormones, known as happiness hormones, specifically serotonin, a mood-elevating substance.

Happy Hormones

Well speaking of chocolate, we are also aware that every Choco product contains at least a little amount of sugar in it to keep balancing the taste. Moreover, sugar plays a very important role in our body because the insulin released facilitates the normal journey of tryptophan to the human brain where it generates happiness. However, there are a number of ways that chocolate can influence our mood. In addition to the immediate psychological as well as physiological response, a person feels as soon after taking a bite of even a chocolate cake.

Mood Stabilizer

The flavours may differ from person to person. Chocolate can accomplish this task, and the effects can be credited to serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is a chemical that acts as a messenger between our nerve cells in the brain and throughout our whole body. It is known as a “mood stabilizer”. It plays an important role in the regulation of mood, sleep, wound healing and digestion and helps reduce depression and anxiety. Chocolate is connected to Tryptophan through a key compound, which we have already discussed. Tryptophan is found in small quantities in chocolate.

Mental Health

A low diet of tryptophan reduces serotonin production, leading to increased feelings of depression or anxiety in individuals. The higher amount of Tryptophan results in an increase in serotonin which might make an individual feel happier, less anxious and calmer after eating a piece of chocolate or a chocolate cake. As mentioned earlier about dopamine, chocolates have also the capacity to affect our dopamine levels. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for pleasure and motivation.

An increase or decrease in dopamine may lead to various neurological problems and also in mental health. Chocolate contains a compound called Tryamine, derived from the amino acid, with an increased level of tyrosine. This increase in tyrosine leads to an increase in dopamine levels which results in activation in the reward centre of our human brain. The dopamine can also help to explain the joy and pleasure the individual might feel after having a first bite of chocolate.

Several studies have shown that eating chocolates has positive effects on cognitive functions. Though many studies have shown conflicting results most of the studies have shown a positive link between eating chocolate and a decrease in elevated mood or other depressive symptoms as we know that chocolates have various chemical compounds that can be very effective to our brain and mental health as well.

Brain Function

It’s quite interesting to know that the ingredients which are incorporated in chocolates help in increasing the blood flow in the brain which results in better brain functioning like capabilities in solving various problems, ability to perform various tasks, increase in attention span, and increase in reaction time and also with enhanced memory. In a research study, researchers found that chocolate helps older people in controlling mental decline and also assists in managing their short-term memory.

Good for Depression

Chocolates, sometimes we use as a snack have such strong effects on our brain and on our human body. Eating chocolate not only keeps a person elated but also helps in keeping the brain healthy and active. Researchers in a recent update revealed the association between chocolates and depression. According to a survey, researchers found that almost 55% of patients experiencing depressed episodes reported craving for chocolate. The study also revealed that chocolate relieved stress, anxiety, and irritability.

Special Occasions and Memories

Chocolate cravings are mostly high during premenstrual dysphoria and winter depression. We always associate our happy moments with chocolate, be it a reward or any happy event. Having chocolate in some moments evokes memories and thus we feel good. In particular, memories are overwhelmingly related to chocolate for most of the people. In our childhood, we used to eat chocolate on our birthdays, during special treats, happy moments, festivals, and occasions. Reminiscences of childhood memories involve stealing chocolates from the candy box hidden underneath a pile of clothes on the topmost shelf of grandmother’s cupboard. This sweet act can brighten up even the dullest of moments.

The familiar taste of chocolates awakens these delightful memories.

Consequences of eating too much chocolate

The question is “HOW MUCH CHOCOLATE IS TOO MUCH?”. Eating cocoa is likely to be safe for most people but keep in mind that every chocolate product contains various chemical compounds. Because of its high fat and sugar composition, it may lead to excessive acne, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Research shows that consuming chocolate can have a positive effect on our mental health by releasing the “feel-good” hormones inside the human body. However, sometimes excessive consumption of cocoa can cause skin allergies, nervousness, and a fast heartbeat. Every caffeine-related product has side effects leading to constipation and increased urination. Sometimes it might cause migraine headaches. Too much or excessive consumption of anything is harmful to our health, be it chocolate or any other food item.


Next time, while eating a piece of chocolate, do not feel guilty about it. Despite its side effects, as we all know the consequences of consuming “too much” may cause various health problems. One should always keep in mind the numerous psychological and physiological benefits associated with this delightful treat. Whether chocolate ingredients enhance our mood is due to any specific ingredients or whether is more psychologically exciting in nature is actually incidental. Anyway, the most important message is: that chocolate makes us happy!

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