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The Chocolate Story – An Elating Fanstasy

Submitted by on February 18, 2013 – 11:34 PM One Comment

francetourismdotcomdotauCome Valentine’s Day and the shops exhibit all sorts of cards, balloons, stuffed toys, candies, chocolates and so on. Everyone is out looking for gifts to give to their loved ones, be it just a tiny chocolate heart or a bunch of roses. The simplest yet best way to express your emotions is to surprise your other half with a nice chocolate, tied with a ribbon. But it’s not just Valentine’s Day that chocolates are famous for.

 

 

Be it birthdays, anniversaries, functions, parties, New Year or even the casual days, chocolates have found their way into every occasion, even mehndi decorations. This is because chocolates are a versatile food item, liked and enjoyed by people from all ethnicities and age groups. Has someone ever thought why it is that chocolates are so irresistible? Why do people enjoy them so much? And how come not even the famous eastern traditional sweet – the meethai- is as popular as chocolate? Well the answer lies in the fact that chocolates give us pleasure and this has been proven by scientific reason too.

 

 

Scientists found out that chocolates contain a protein called phenylephylamine, which is the same hormone that is released from the brain when a person falls in love. Some more digging into the physiology of this hormone tells us that it causes the release of other neurotransmitters in the body – norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and dopamine. It is widely known that norepinephrine increases the heart rate and makes our palms sweaty. High levels of norepinephrine in the brain also narrow down the appetite and increase the scale of pleasure.

 

 

The release of its corresponding neurotransmitter, dopamine, makes us feel happy and good, bringing about a  more sociable and friendly change in the body by activating five types of dopamine receptors in the brain that also trigger the ‘pleasure system’. But it’s not just this; high levels of phenylephylamine itself increase the energy of the living system making it more enthusiastic.

 

 

That said, there is another side to the story. Phenylephylamine has a very small half life and is readily metabolized in the body, so that it is not available to drive the body down the charming lane. So much for the credit given to phenylephylamine for the happy chocolate feeling, when it is mainly dopamine that is the forerunner. But we still cannot defer the role of phenylephylamine in this regard, as it has also been suggested that phenylephylamine is occupied in the presynaptic vesicles which are usually the home of dopamine. This allows dopamine to regulate freely, giving the body a happy boost.

 

 

This brings us to the conclusion that although dopamine is the main cause of the brain’s emotional drive, the other two neurotransmitters discussed above cannot be neglected either. Indeed it may be helpful to think of dopamine as the driver, and phenylephylamine and noradrenaline as the occupants of the back seat, giving dopamine a leg up. So much for the chocolate theory, but who actually cares about it? Nowadays, people have just made chocolate an affection icon, a way to express their feelings and joys.

 

 

Chocolate ads in this era mainly depict the alluring emotions. Long gone are the days when chocolates were also showed in ads involving childhood joys. But whatever the story may be, the theme remains the same: chocolates are there if you have to win over someone, apologize to somebody, celebrate and so on. This is also made easier by the vast variety of forms the chocolates come in – dark chocolate, white chocolate, liquid chocolate, chocolate bars, chocolate disks, etc.

 

 

People also like to have them in all sorts of ways – in cakes, in biscuits, dairy stuff, with milk, wafers, ice-creams or even raw. It is a universal favourite and has now found its way into almost every occasion. So the next time you are dealing with the dilemma of selecting the best sweet dish for a party, do try chocolates.

 

 

 

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  • Rehan Rehman

    A very interesting write-up indeed. The effects of dopamine in the brain’s ‘pleasure and reward system’ is highly documented in literature. However, other chemicals less so. Just a quick thought ran through my mind while I was reading this article. Is there any documented evidence of the effects of eating chocolate (excessively or in lesser amounts) in schizophrenics and the outcome of these patients’ therapeutic efficacy. Since dopamine is highly dis-regulated in patients suffering from schizophrenia, it might be that chocolate (which induces dopamine release) could have an effect on the disease. A probable research area? Just intrigued.