||Why do people crave chocolate?
Whether chocolate is physically addictive or simply tastes so good that we develop cultural and behavioral cues that mimic addiction is a matter of some debate. As "The Sweet Science of Chocolate" explains, chocolate contains over 300 distinct chemicals. They undoubtedly play some role in our love for the stuff.
The initial chocolate buzz is probably the result of caffeine and several other stimulants, including theobrimine, a substance toxic to dogs. But what about the languid, almost post-coital state of chocolate-induced reverie that many people experience? Scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, suggest that the chemicals in chocolate have roughly the same effect on the brain as marijuana.
Chocolate contains a neurotransmitter called anandide that latches on to the brain's receptors for THC, the active agent in marijuana. This could explain the chocolate high, as well as the chocolate craving. The research, however, is far from definitive -- to get truly high, you'd need to ingest 25 pounds of the stuff.
Other theories suggest that certain carbohydrates present in chocolate raise serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is an active neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of well-being.
What seems beyond scientific reproach is that to many people, chocolate tastes so good that it is treated like a drug -- it's used for depression, for relaxation, and for celebration.