Chocolate: Not so sinful after all?
By Husna Saimon
LimKokWing University of Creative Technology
Diploma in Mass Communication, Semester 3
Just imagine a delicious chocolate ganache melting in your mouth… to some chocoholics, that’s their idea of heaven! Chocolate can lift the spirit, inspire poems and even cure ailments. Chocolate is considered by many as an anti-depressant, and even an aphrodisiac.
Passion for chocolates is sometimes associated with sinful indulgence. Chocolate has often been blamed for acne and tooth decay. Some shun chocolates due to its reputation for low nutritional value and its fattening effects. Recently, however, research has proven that these accusations about chocolate are either overstated or entirely false.
Studies by the Pennsylvania School of Medicine and US Navy Academy proved that chocolates are not the cause of acne. Neither is there any evidence that shows chocolate is the cause for cavities or tooth decay. Chocolate actually coats the enamel and helps prevent plaque. Cavities are caused by the sugar in chocolate, rather than the chocolate itself.
Researchers at the University of California found out that phenolics, found abundantly in cocoa, may help lower the risk of heart disease. Phenolics prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidising and clogging the arteries. Clogged arteries are a major cause of heart attacks.
Besides phenolics, chocolate contains more than 300 known compounds including magnesium. A small amount of caffeine and a slightly higher amount of theobromine, a weak stimulant, provides the ‘lift’ that energises our day. Phenylethylamine, which is chemically related to amphetamines, is a strong stimulant, which increases the activity of neurotransmitters in our brains to boost alertness. All these stimulants provide chocolate-eaters with a temporary sense of well-being.
The pleasurable effect that chocoholics claim to experience is attributed to a pharmacologically active substance that produces the same effect on the brain as marijuana. Researchers at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, California, believe that these chemicals are the source of chocolate cravings.
Chocolates do not contain tetrahydrocannabinol that gives the floating ‘high’ feeling that marijuana provides. Instead, chocolates contain anandamide, which is naturally produced in the brain. Elevated levels of anandamide enhance a feeling of well-being.
Chocolate contains four times the dose of polyphenol found in green tea. These polyphenols prevent cancer cells from forming.
A cup of green tea with a chocolate biscuit or a piece of dark chocolate sounds like a fantastic way to rev up the engine for the day!