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Do You Have Chocolate on the Brain?

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Do You Have Chocolate on the Brain?

 

You’re not alone.

One billion people eat chocolate every day. The average American gobbles up to 15 pounds a year or the equivalent of a thanksgiving turkey. The U.S. chocolate industry is worth about $25 billion or roughly the same as the price tag for a southern border wall.

I’d rather eat chocolate then fences.

What would life be like without Godiva, hot fudge sundaes, valentine hearts filled with creamy truffles, and grinning chocolate Easter bunnies?

There’s an old saying – nine out of ten people love chocolate. The tenth one always lies.

The ancient Aztec ruler, Montezuma, drank 50 cups of chocolate a day. Marie Antoinette (“let them eat cake”) traveled with her personal chocolatier. More recently, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron (Brigitte Trogneux) is from a family of upscale chocolatiers (maybe that’s why she married a man 24 years younger)?

There’s no denying it – chocolate is on our brains.

 

18th century Casanova used chocolate as an aphrodisiac and Napoleon carried chocolate into battle to boost his energy.  President Obama asked Fran’s Chocolates in Seattle to package his favorite, sea salt chocolate caramels, in a blue box with the mighty Presidential Seal.

As Judith Viorst wrote, “Strength is the capacity to break a Hershey bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.”

 

I’m not that strong.

Why? Ask science.

Researcher Dr. David Lewis, attached electrodes and heart monitors to volunteers, comparing the effects of a passionate kiss to a mouthful of chocolate. Chocolate won with a “buzz” that lasted almost four times longer than the kiss! When chocolate melts slowly on the tongue multiple pleasure centers of the brain are ignited, highlighting Dr. Lewis’ observation, “people can become addicted to it.”

The chemistry says it all. Chocolate is naturally loaded with stimulants – names like theobromine, phenylethylamine, tryptophan, and epicatechin. One analysis discovered the feel-good chemical,  anandamide, similar to THC in marijuana.

That’s quite a mouthful.

The conclusion was that chocolate makes you feel good. Even looking at chocolate can set off cravings. Perhaps that’s why people buy 60 million pounds of chocolate during Valentine’s Day week or as a study of Harvard graduates found, people who eat chocolate live longer?

The health benefits of chocolate are hotly debated from lowering blood pressure to raising (or lowering) cholesterol. The infamous chocolate flavonols may improve cardiovascular health while overindulging (especially in rich, sugary filled chocolate) can have the opposite effect. A 2017 Japanese study found that eating chocolate was associated with lower stroke risk in women (not men).

The studies all agree on one thing – chocolate results in the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. Of course Marie Antoinette, President Obama, and most of us already knew that.

What does your favorite chocolate cost?  One of the most expensive chocolate bars in the world, To’ak, is produced from an ancient variety of Ecuadorian cacao beans. It comes with a 116-page booklet, and is packaged in a Spanish elm wood box engraved with the bar number. To’ak recently went on sale for $685. Too pricey? DeLafée of Switzerland offers a box of two Swiss chocolates embedded with edible gold flakes and paired with an antique gold coin for a paltry $275. Perhaps the world’s most costly truffle, the House of Knipschildt’s La Madeline au Truffle, goes for $250 for one piece. Hand-made in Connecticut.

That leaves the rest of us to Nestles Crunch and Hershey Kisses. There are also funky flavors like Mo’s Bacon, Kiva Cannabis-infused, and spicy Lindt’s Chili. For white-chocolate lovers it’s all fake news – there’s only cocoa butter in the stuff.

Author Cassandra Clare aptly wrote, “What kind of monster could possibly hate chocolate?”

Not me.

What about you?

Dr. Jeri Fink, author, photographer, traveler, and family therapist, challenges the creaky myths of aging. She believes that now is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, people, and places. Visit Dr. Jeri at www.jerifink.com,   www.hauntedfamilytrees.com,   or   www.bookwebminis.com to enter her world of discovery, fun, and insights. Her fiction project, Broken, is a series of seven thrillers that defy tradition. She is presently working on Book Web Minis – a series of fun, fast and positive mini books (50-70 pages long) where readers partner with the experts. Check it out at www.bookwebminis.com

She tells us: “I challenge the art of writing by merging fact, fictional elements, interactivity, and photography into nonfiction mini books. I draw from my training in social work, experience in individual and family therapy, professional research, and passion for exploring positive psychology. My 32 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements, and active online presence all reflect who I am today.”

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