Give in to your cravings
Researchers say chocolate triggers feel-good chemicals
Febuary 14, 1996
From Correspondent Linda Ciampa
ATLANTA (CNN) -- "I probably have a little every day, because
I think it makes you feel good when you get some." Those are
the words of a chocolate lover.
Those sweet desires are not just imagined. Now, researchers
have found that eating chocolate, the number one food craved
by American women, causes the brain to release endorphins,
chemicals that make us feel good.
"So we eat chocolate so we release and experience pleasure
and so as a result, we crave chocolate,Ó said Adam Drewnowski
of the University of Michigan. "We want chocolate
in times of stress, anxiety, pain and so on. Chocolate is a
natural analgesic, or pain killer."
Other researchers have also said chocolate contains
substances that might mimic the effects of marijuana,
boosting the pleasure you get from eating the stuff.
The ingredients might make the texture, smell and flavor of
chocolate more enjoyable and combine with other ingredients
like caffeine to make a person feel good, researcher Daniele
"We are talking about something much, much, much, much milder
than a high," said Piomelli, a researcher at the
Neurosciences Institute of San Diego. He reported the work
with colleagues in the journal Nature.
But a researcher who studies the brain chemistry of marijuana
said chocolate contains such low levels of the ingredients
Piomelli identified that he doubts they have any effect.
Piomelli found that chocolate contains anandamide, which is
also produced naturally in the brain and which activates the
same target that marijuana does.
He also found two chocolate ingredients that inhibit the
natural breakdown of anandamide, which could lead to
heightened levels of anandamide in the brain.
Other researchers believe chocolate cravings have something
to do with serotonin, a brain chemical that makes us feel
"It's Mother Nature's solution via food cravings to try to
elevate those chemicals, help us feel better and to function
more efficiently," said Deborah Waterhouse, author of "Why
Women Need Chocolate." "We will crave chocolate or some
other food that has sugar and fat to help bring those
chemicals back into balance."
Fortunately, there is a sweet solution for those chronic
cravings -- feed them.
"Having chocolate cravings is something that's induced by
stress and probably is governed by body chemistry -- so it's
not something you can control," Drewnowski said. "They only
become a problem when the amount consumed is too big.
Otherwise, I say, no problem, enjoy and buy the best
The trick is to give in only a bit.
"The equivalent of a half ounce, which is about a third of a
candy bar, or a couple of Hershey Kisses will do it,"
Waterhouse said. "It's a surprising small amount."