"Forget love, I'd rather fall in chocolate"
Discover Theobroma Cacao / Chocolate's properties that effect our feelings of love & compassion.Chocolate has many elements that relax us and release chemicals in our bodies that allow us feel more love, peace and joy.
Cocoa, chocolate and aphrodisiac properties
South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 21, No 3 (2008)
Afoakwa EO, MPhil, PhD
Keywords: cocoa; chocolate; aphrodisiac; ﬂavanols; polyphenols; cardioprotection
Cocoa and chocolate have been acclaimed for several years for their possible medicinal and health beneﬁts. It is only recently, however, that some of these claims have been more clearly identiﬁed and studied. Recent epidemiological and clinical studies, for example, have shown that dietary supplementation with ﬂavonoid-rich cocoa and chocolate may exert a protective effect on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, which has been associated with a reduced risk of developing atherosclerosis. Some of the identiﬁed beneﬁts of ﬂavonoid-rich cocoa and chocolate include antioxidant properties, reduced blood pressure via the induction of nitric-oxide (NO)-dependent vasodilation in men, improved endothelial function, increased insulin sensitivity, decreased platelet activation and function, as well as modulated immune function and inﬂammation. Furthermore, chocolate has been reported to release phenylethylamine and serotonin into the human system, producing some aphrodisiac and mood-lifting effects. Since these claims could have implications for the consumption levels of cocoa and chocolate products on the global market, understanding the critical factors involved and their potential beneﬁts are currently thought to be of great importance to consumers.
Cocoa, chocolate and aphrodisiac properties
Cocoa and chocolate have been reported to exert several effects on human sexuality, acting mainly as an effective aphrodisiac, increasing sexual desire and improving sexual pleasure.58 They have been claimed to contain a chemical substance known as phenylethylamine, which has been reported to stimulate the hypothalamus, inducing pleasurable sensations as well as affecting the levels of two neurotransmitters – 5-hydroxytrytamine (serotonin) and endorphins in the brain – hence enhancing mood lifting and sexual drive.11 These chemicals occur naturally and are released by the brain into the nervous system during situations of happiness and feelings of love, passion and/or lust. This causes a rapid mood change, a rise in blood pressure, an increase in heart rate and an inducement of those feelings of well-being bordering on euphoria that are usually associated with being in love.
In other studies, the cocoa in chocolate has been reported to contain several potentially psychoactive chemicals, such as the sympathomimetic biogenic amines (tyramine and phenylethylamine) and the methylxanthines (theobromine and caffeine).59,61 Spampinato62, for example, notes that each 100 g of chocolate contains 660 mg of phenylethylamine (C 6H5(CH2)2NH2), a stimulant similar to the body’s own dopamine and adrenaline. Phenylethylamine has been noted to raise blood pressure and heart rate, heightening sensations and blood-glucose levels.63 Since eating chocolate gives an instant energy boost and an increase in stamina, it is no wonder that the effects of eating chocolate have given chocolate a reputation as an aphrodisiac. Both compounds can also be mildly addictive, which explains the drive of chocoholics. Women are more susceptible to the effects of phenylethylamine and serotonin than men,58 which explains why more women tend to be chocoholics than men.
Chocolate has also been shown to contain unsaturated N-acylethanolamines, which may activate cannabinoid receptors or increase endocannabinoid levels and result in heightened sensitivity and euphoria.12 Researchers believe that chocolate contains pharmacologically active substances that have the same effect on the brain as marijuana and that these chemicals may be responsible for certain drug-induced psychoses that are associated with chocolate craving.10,63 Marijuana’s active ingredient leading a person to feel “high” is tetrahydrocannabinol, however, a different chemical neurotransmitter produced naturally in the brain called anandamide has been isolated from chocolate.12 Because the amount of anandamide found in chocolate is so minuscule, this is not the reason for chocolate giving a person a “high”; rather, it is the compounds such as unsaturated N-acylethanolamines in chocolate that have been associated with the good and “high” feeling that chocolate consumption provides. Anandamide is nevertheless broken down rapidly into two inactive sections after production by the enzyme hydrolase, which is found in our bodies.12 Other chemicals are present in chocolate, however, which may inhibit this natural breakdown and thus make people feel good for longer when they eat chocolate.
Although chocolate contains chemicals that are associated with feelings of happiness, love, passion, lust, endurance, stamina and mood lifting, scientists continue to debate whether it should be classiﬁed as an aphrodisiac. It would be very challenging to say that there is ﬁrm proof that chocolate is indeed an aphrodisiac. Chocolate does, however, contain substances that increase energy, stamina, mood lifting and feelings of well-being. The reality is that a gift of chocolate is a familiar courtship ritual that makes people feel good and that induces feelings of being in love.
In conclusion, cocoa and chocolate ﬂavonoids are compounds that are vital to human health This is evidenced by their inﬂuence on a number of ﬁndings related to their biochemical and physiological functions in the body, with identiﬁed potent antioxidant effects under in vitro conditions and in vivo after consumption. These antioxidant properties have been related to increases in plasma epicatechin concentrations, to endothelial-dependent vascular relaxation as promoted by cocoa ﬂavonoids due in part to the increased bioavailability of NO and prostacyclin, and to the anti-atherosclerotic properties of NO combined with a favourable shift toward vasodilation, which confers a vasculo-protective effect. The lowering of blood pressure has also been found after short-term dark-chocolate intervention in the presence of mild isolated systolic hypertension. Other known effects from cocoa ﬂavonoids include their suppressive effect on platelet reactivity and platelet-related primary haemostasis, the modulation of immune function, and inﬂammation as potential cardioprotective effects. Finally, some aphrodisiac effects, mood lifting and heightened sensitivity have also been reported to be due to phenylethylamine and N-acylethanolamine compounds in cocoa and chocolate. As consumers become more aware of the potential aphrodisiac effects and health beneﬁts associated with cocoa and chocolate consumption, they will require more information on whether the intake of these functional compounds and/or their sources is related to measurable effects on human sexual lives, health and/or the development of disease. They will also require relevant information on speciﬁc sources and products commonly available in the marketplace as a guide to their selection of foods. The consumption of cocoa and chocolate ﬂavonoids therefore still presents an exciting area of further nutritional, clinical and epidemiological research, with signiﬁcant implications for sexual health and cardiovascular protection in humans.