Chocolate Addiction

Addicted to Chocolate

Chocolate Addict

Is chocolate addiction real or a myth? Is it just an excuse used by people craving the sweet and decadent treat to justify manic desires for a chocolate candy bar fix to satisfy these intense urges?

Just like helping an alcoholic or drug addict to recover, family and friends might find it difficult to provide support without a clear understanding if chocolate craving can be equated to addiction and how to curb it. There might be some psychological, physiological and emotional reasons behind the addiction that had to be known and understood to battle this somewhat unreasonable craving.

Food cravings are quite common, especially for women. There are several symptoms that indicate when people will crave for some or a certain kind of food, particularly those with high fat and carbohydrates or sugar content like ice cream and chocolates. Before cravings start, a person would feel anxious, bored and even depressed, and the only way they can get out of this slump is to indulge. Therefore, self-confessed chocolate addicts treat these symptoms by indulging on it as medication.

Why are women more affected by chocolate craving than men?

Scientists have explained that women all over the world mostly experience this craving during the pre-menstrual period, where hormones are rather unbalanced and can also result to a deficiency in magnesium.  This increases the cravings in women. Sweets like chocolate releases serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter that is a popular contributor to feelings of happiness and well-being. Women experiencing PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) wanted the high it gives off, letting the pleasure chemicals do its thing to calm them down and make them feel better. Once it does its work, a person can develop dependency and eventually would want more, creating a vicious cycle that will lead to other diseases and physical handicap.

Chocolate craving is also common to people with seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Also known as winter depression or winter blues, SAD is associated with bingeing or excessive eating, depression and feelings of sadness and excessive sleeping. Women are more susceptible to SAD than men, with approximately 5% of the North American population reported to experience this.

But how can this craving become an addiction?

According to the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid, Spain, chocolate contain a group of alkaloids called tetrahydro-beta-carbolines. This seemingly harmless candy bar contains several biologically active ingredients that contribute to psychological sensations and abnormal behavior commonly observed on people taking addictive substances. Because these chemicals are known as neuroactive alkaloids that are also linked to alcoholism, further studies are being conducted to investigate the probable influences of consuming chocolates on behavior and mood.

In one research study conducted at the University of Tampere in Finland, it was reported that chocoholics – people addicted to chocolate – displayed higher anxiety and negative moods. The subjects used for the research salivated more when they saw chocolate and has eventually manifested several characteristics similar to a narcotic addict. Another research study conducted in Italy stated that the pleasure-inducing compound in chocolate known as anandamide has similar effects like marijuana, which was later on disputed by the researchers at the University Irvine in California.

Whatever research or study was done, scientists still insist that chocolate addiction is not a real addiction, stating that it might have induced effects similar to drug use but these mood-altering substances can also be found in other less sweet and tempting food like broccoli.

Curbing chocolate craving is difficult and it isn’t helped much by the slew of advertisements, promotions and TV commercials that people see everyday, fuelling that urge to buy and consume more. All efforts to restrain the urges can definitely backfire through the increasing desire for sweets and candy bars rich in fats and carbohydrates or sugar. Therefore, scientists insist that chocolate addiction is more of a cultural phenomenon rather than physical. The environment and present-day culture contributes to the difficulty of controlling these urges. Whereas before, people search for food, but at present, food is presented in a wide array of choices and most of these choices are highly unhealthy.

It also does not help curbing chocolate cravings when holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter promotes candy to the fullest. Manufacturers had come up with assorted offerings in all shapes and sizes that can whet anyone’s appetite for more. It is an urge that everyone is aware of but most people dismiss as something frivolous and is not as serious as other diseases like cancer. But bingeing on chocolate can eventually lead to serious diseases like diabetes. A whopping 75 percent of women with diabetes, according to the US Diabetes Association, say that only chocolate can satisfy their appetites. This revelation is disturbing and a call for action is needed. Therefore, in recent years, several chocolate manufacturers have created sugar-free and low carbohydrate candy bars to control the rising number of people afflicted with diabetes.

Is chocolate truly evil?

Just like everything in life, there are both positive and negative effects in indulging in this sweet treat. One variety is certainly very healthy – dark chocolate. It helps blood circulation and is sometimes recommended by physicians to their patients. Known to stimulate the brain, the dark variety also produces antioxidants or anti-cancer, prevents cough and is an antidiarrheal. According to studies, it can help prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, boost memory and other brain functions, lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure. Enhancing cognitive functions prompts students to eat a lot of chocolates while studying for their exams.

It is also said that melting chocolate in one’s mouth can produce an increase in brain activity and heart rate that is more intense. The effects can also last longer when compared to the effects of passionate kissing. However, the myth behind chocolate as an aphrodisiac is discounted as fiction by scientists.

Too much of something is bad, of course. This adage is also true for chocolates. Since other varieties of chocolate had higher sugar and fat content, too much consumption of it can lead to obesity and diabetes. Mild lead poisoning has also been reported as a potential negative effect since chocolate absorbs lead from the environment during production, probably from machines emitting gas. This is a common scenario in manufacturing factories in Nigeria. However, WHO deemed the lead content to be tolerable based on the 200,000 ng lead daily limit consumption. Researches also indicate high risk of osteoporosis for elderly people and can be extremely toxic to many animals because of the substance theobromine.

Through it all, being addicted to sweets is just a state of mind. As long as there are boundaries and limitations, there will be more positive effects gained rather than the negatives. Both bad and good, chocolate has everything to make people crave it. It has the right aroma, sweetness and texture, tempting all the senses and simply explaining why people have the sweet cravings. It has the right nutrients and even anti-oxidants. It also has chemicals that induce hormonal and mood swings. But through it all, the craving can be resisted through numerous ways and methods. With all the health benefits stated, chocolate is truly a pleasure to have in this world.