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The Science of Chocolate – Why We Just Can’t Get Enough

2nd April 2024

The Science of Chocolate

It’s Easter Weekend, and if you’re anything like us you’ll probably be spending the next few days eating your own weight in chocolate! But you may also be interested to know why this delectable, sweet treat is so moreish and irresistible!

Research suggests that chocolate may trigger similar hedonic responses in the brain to alcohol and narcotics, as well as the release of serotonin and dopamine when ingested. So that happy feeling it brings is not just because it tastes so good, but because it makes you feel good!

Cocoa powder and chocolate are rich in flavonoids, mostly epicatechin, which are antioxidants that can cross the blood-brain barrier. These compounds accumulate in the brain and central nervous system where they convey neuroprotective effects and stimulate the flow of oxygenated blood throughout the brain.

The neuroprotection comes in the form of an interaction with protein and lipid kinase signal cascades which lead to the inhibition of neuron cell death by removing oxygen radicals.

Flavonoids also stimulate angiogenesis and neurogenesis in the brain, particularly in areas affecting learning and memory, and epicatechin has been demonstrated to improve cognition in humans and animals [1].

Chocolate also contains a chemical called phenylethylamine [2], a neurotransmitter released when the brain experiences feelings of attraction and love. This is perhaps why there is such a deep cultural link between chocolate and romance!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at why chocolate is such an appealing treat. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to go and find some chocolate!

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1.Nehlig, C. 2012. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 75(3), 716-727

2.The Science of Chocolate – Why We Just Can’t Get Enough!Bispo, E. S., Dala-Paula, B. M., Gloria, M. B. A., and Silva, G. S. 2023. Bioaccessibility of bioactive amines in dark chocolates made with different proportions of under-fermented and fermented cocoa beans. Food Chemistry, 404

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