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World Chocolate Day: What happens to your brain when you eat chocolate

This World Chocolate Day, let us tell you about the link between chocolate and brain! You will find answers to why you crave this sweet delight and what happens when you eat it.
dark chocolate
Know how chocolate affects the brain, Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Team Health Shots Published: 7 Jul 2023, 13:15 pm IST
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From kids to adults and senior citizens, everyone loves chocolate! It is one craving that gives you an instant high once it is satiated. Needless to say, chocolates are a delightful indulgence for many, offering a burst of flavour and a momentary escape from the stresses of life. But have you ever wondered why they can be so irresistible? The answer lies within our brain! Yes, there’s a link between chocolate and brain!

Recent research in neuroscience has uncovered the brain areas and chemicals involved in the pleasure and addiction associated with chocolate consumption. Let us delve into the science behind our love for chocolate and how chocolate affects the brain.

Foods affect brain
The foods we eat affect the brain. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Know the link between chocolate and brain

There are many foods for brain health, and chocolate is considered one of them. Karishma Jethmalani, Neuro Psychologist, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, Sir H.N. Reliance Hospital, tells Health Shots about the link between chocolate and the brain.

1. Chocolate activates the brain

When we consume chocolate, several brain areas and chemicals come into play. The initial enjoyment begins with the taste buds on our tongues, detecting the sweet or bitter flavors. The information is then sent to the brain’s primary taste processing areas, which evaluate the taste of chocolate.

2. Chocolate triggers reward centers in brain

Chocolate triggers the brain’s reward centers, such as the ventral striatum, through the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals create feelings of pleasure, reward, and even euphoria. It’s this activation of the reward pathway that contributes to the addictive potential of chocolate.

3. Seeing or smelling chocolate boosts craving

The prefrontal cortex, located at the front of the brain, plays a crucial role in decision-making and impulse control. When we see or smell chocolate, the prefrontal cortex becomes active, evaluating the desirability and reward value of indulging in it. This evaluation can influence our decision-making and contribute to the anticipation and cravings we experience.

Also read: Indulge in these irresistible and healthy chocolate recipes

Benefits of chocolate
Chocolate can have health benefits and side effects too. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Chocolate impacts serotonin levels in brain

Chocolates contains compounds that can affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation and feelings of well-being. The consumption of chocolate increases the availability of tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for serotonin production. The release of serotonin contributes to the mood-enhancing and pleasurable effects of eating chocolate.

Is chocolate good for health?

According to the expert, understanding the neuroscientific effects of chocolate consumption can definitely help us harness the health benefits of chocolate. The mood-enhancing properties of serotonin and the pleasure-inducing qualities of dopamine can even be utilized in moderation to boost our well-being. The benefits of dark chocolate, especially, have been studied extensively.

However, while chocolates can be a delightful treat, there can be multiple side effects of eating too much chocolate. The high sugar and calorie content may contribute to weight gain and other health issues. Additionally, over time, repeated chocolate consumption can cause changes in the reward system, making us crave more to achieve the same level of satisfaction. This cycle can potentially lead to addiction-like behaviors.

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How to stop chocolate cravings?

To control cravings, it’s helpful to engage in other pleasurable activities or find healthier substitutes. Engaging in physical exercise can also stimulate the release of endorphins, providing a natural mood boost.

Understanding the brain areas involved in addiction, such as the reward system and prefrontal cortex, can empower us to make mindful choices. Developing strategies like mindful eating, setting limits, and seeking support when needed can help manage cravings and maintain a healthy balance.

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