Chocolate and Craving

There May Be a Relation with Alcohol

Woman Eating Chocolate
Craving for Chocolate. © Getty Images

For years people have claimed to be addicted to chocolate and now there is new scientific evidence that reveals some addictive qualities in the tasty treat.

The same alkaloid compounds found in alcohol are also present in chocolate, researchers say.

This could also explain why many recovering alcoholics use chocolate to curb their craving for alcohol, especially in early sobriety. The book Alcoholics Anonymous (The Big Book) recommends using chocolate to satisfy cravings.

Researchers at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid are the first to find that ordinary cocoa and chocolate bars contain a group of alkaloids known as tetrahydro-beta-carbolines, according to researcher Tomas Herraiz.

In previous research, the same chemicals were linked to alcoholism, he said. The family of compounds, which are also known as neuroactive alkaloids, continues to be investigated for possible influences on mood and behavior.

Like Marijuana?

In an earlier study, Italian scientists caffeine and magnesium, are often suggested as potential contributors to craving," Herraiz said. "Now we can enlarge this list to include these compounds."

Higher levels of the compounds seem to correlate with the amount of cocoa in a sample, he reported. The darker the chocolate, the more of the compounds it contains, the news release said.

Women More Affected

Women seem to be more prone to chocolate cravings than men.

The Diabetes Association report found that only 15 percent of males appear to crave chocolate, as much as 40 percent of women do - and 75 percent of them claim that absolutely nothing other than chocolate can satisfy their appetite.

Because chocolate cravings may be influenced by a deficiency in magnesium, this may be why some experience an increase in chocolate cravings during PMS.

For most people craving chocolate is in no way harmful, but if it rises to the level of "binge eating" it can be a real problem. Chocolate is the food most desired by women who binge eat, because of a brain chemical that gives them physical pleasure from the sweet indulgence, says University of Michigan nutritionist Adam Drewnowski.

Drewnowski's research found that Naloxone can reduce craving in binge eaters, but Naloxone is available only intravenously, which makes it impractical for chronic bingers. Drewnowski is searching for an easier-to-take drug.

Sources:

Herraiz, T. "Tetrahydro-ß-carbolines, Potential Neuroactive Alkaloids, in Chocolate and Cocoa." Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry Accessed 2016

Miller, MC. "Can you become addicted to chocolate?" Harvard Mental Health Letter February 2013

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