Is chocolate an aphrodisiac?
Are you in love with chocolate?
Are we in love with chocolate, or does chocolate make us more likely to love? In short, does a passion for chocolate, lead to a passion for anything else?
A Brief History of Chocolate
It’s probably worth starting with why historically, chocolate was associated with love, in the first place. The Spanish conquistadors brought back tales of the Emperor Montezuma’s partiality for drinking large qualities of chocolate before retiring to his equally large harem. When brought back to Western Europe, chocolate was always seen as a refined product (no pun intended!). Linnaeus classified the cocao tree as theobrama cocao, from the Greek words theo (God) and broma (drink). Drink of the Gods. It was revered and prized as an exclusive luxury commodity; enjoyed and usually given as gifts by well off men to women – often as an expression of romantic love.
Advertising Chocolate as an Aphrodisiac
Modern advertising focuses on the sensual link between chocolate and women, especially. The only adult male dominated chocolate advert that I can directly find, is the ‘Yorkie Bar’ man from the 1980’s which associated the chunky size of the Yorkie bar as a way of fulfilling the appetite of a long distance rugged trucker!
Men do feature in chocolate advertising – usually using it as a way of attracting the interest of desirable women. The famous Milk Tray ad of the 1970s and 80’s features an intrepid man in black who adventurously scales the walls of a house to deliver a box of chocolates – to a sleeping woman. And all because the lady loves Milk Tray! It’s a fair bet that chocolate featured heavily in the list of any Valentine gifts exchanged recently. But probably not delivered in quite the same way!
Research into links between chocolate and happiness
Over the years, there’s been any number of studies looking at a possible link between chocolate and the affect it might have on the human senses –in all their forms.
Probably a better question to ask is why does chocolate make us feel happy?
Cocoa contains many biologically active ingredients. Some scientists claim to have discovered over 300 naturally present chemicals in chocolate. These may affect the human brain and release neurotransmitters which can be responsible for your emotions and the way you feel.
Natural chemicals released by eating chocolate
Three of the best known of these chemicals are; phenylethlyamine, serotonin and endorphins.
Phenylethlyamine can have an effect on increasing the pulse rate, and stimulating a sense of excitement. Serotonin is thought to help in lifting our moods and endorphins are regarded as decreasing levels of pain and stress.
So what the scientists are really saying is that eating chocolate releases these chemicals into the brain and this combines to make us feel happy.
And if we feel happy? Well, there’s no knowing what we might do?
In fact, there’s no direct biological evidence to show that chocolate can affect your libido. But eating too much or the wrong type, without a balance diet and regular exercise, might just affect your waistline!
The links between pharmacological and psychological effect when eating chocolate
However, just when we might have nailed it – along comes yet another theory.
The Evening Standard ran an article recently which suggested the reason that chocolate is linked to positive feelings of well- being because it simply tastes so good. But, we know that already don’t we? Is this another example of the academics stating the obvious? Hang on a minute – let them explain.
The effects are more pharmacological than psychological. By which they mean that the properties of chocolate don’t affect the brain via direct biological action.
Instead, they argue that the positive effects of eating chocolate are more psychological. The aroma, taste and texture of chocolate combines to make it such a pleasurable sensation that it stimulates the orbifrontal cortex – the feel good centres of the brain.
The psychological theory probably has some credence since the average bar of chocolate may simply not contain enough positive substances on its own to affect our state of mind for the better.
Of course, context is everything and munching away at any chocolate bar is still likely to be remembered as a pleasurable moment or two. Especially, if it’s eaten as a brief oasis in any otherwise busy day. Give us a break – Kit Kat! Even if we’re all too soon back to the constant steam of emails, we can still have a Bounty and dream of tropical paradise.
Can we really say that chocolate is an aphrodisiac?
On its own, probably not, but does it really matter? Let’s enjoy it for what it is – a mouthful of magic which melts at near body temperature.
So, we feel good because chocolate tastes good. That’s hardly surprising since from childhood, our association with chocolate as a reward, a gift or sign of favour, is so strong.
Of course, as a maker of fine quality handmade chocolates, I’m almost bound add that if we all ate better quality chocolate, we might feel even better!
But, like love itself, that’s a matter of taste!
P.S. Here are some other chocolate blog posts you might like to read...