It is a fact that women are the greater consumers of chocolates and numerous studies have endeavored to explain why that is so. Although one group of women may enjoy chocolate simply as a guilt-free treat, or an energy-boost, another group may seem to be obsessed by it.
Being labelled as a chocoholic may not seem, on the face of it, to amount to a serious blot on someone's personality or reputation. But when tales surface of chocolate addiction and associated crimes committed being connected to the need to satisfy the craving, then it is not surprising that it is often perceived by the public at large as being an addictive substance. So much so, that popular writers have said that its consumption should be limited in some way, perhaps by drinking a long glass of water.
Some psychologists have pinpointed an interesting diversionary tactic regularly employed by an addictive type of personality. They then go on to recommend that it is preferable that chocolate should be consumed to satisfy this aspect of their addictive nature – they contend that this is because its mild disadvantages vastly outweigh the highly deleterious effect of other addictive substances.
Their argument may indeed carry some weight, because they claim that eating chocolates does not make a person - as other substances well might – 'stupid and clumsy', incapable of operating heavy machinery, or driving a motor vehicle on a public road in heavy traffic. Moreover, even though you may have had to smuggle chocolate into your childhood bedroom, you will never have to 'smuggle' chocolates across an international border. 'Possession' of chocolate, unlike drugs, is not obscene or illegal behavior, even if coupled with the intention of selling.
Medical evidence has suggested that the coupled presence of caffeine and a substance called theobromine in chocolates are at the root of its addictive properties. However, other evidence points to the less well known substance with an awfully long name called 'phenylethylamine'. (PEA)
PEA is known as the "love drug" and is thought be be the reason why chocolate is said to be an aphrodisiac. It is a chemical that mimics the brain chemistry of a person in love, so when levels of phenylethylamine are high in the body it relieves depression from unrequited love. This is one of the reasons so many women love chocolate - it really is a mood elevator!
What reinforces this contention is that it is one of the group of chemicals categorized as endorphins. In general, endorphins have been shown to have an affect on the human body which is very similar to amphetamine, so it is no accident that 'PEA' is chemically related. The 'exciting' and blood pulsing factor is, that when endorphins are let loose in our blood stream, they automatically lift the mood, generating positive, pulsating energy, with feelings fluctuating from uncomplicated happiness to a sense of euphoria. An interesting fact is that 'PEA' is actually present naturally in the human body!
It is important for chocolate lovers to differentiate between simple cravings and full-blown 'choc-addiction'. Simple craving is just an unmet desire for a pleasurable substance, with no line being drawn between hot buttered toast, cups of coffee, and of course chocolate bars. The root of this sort craving lies with our modern lifestyle which naturally breeds stress. The desired substance is a effective stress-panacea. In these circumstances it may actually serve to enhance our performance by improving concentration, and reducing fatigue.
Juxtaposed to that though, full-on addiction is defined as the habitual use of a substance such as alcohol or drugs which progressively become less effective with use, and the need to quash a persistent gnawing need. The result here is inevitably, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, coupled to any efforts directed at giving up the offending substance.
So, chocolate can hardly be accused of falling into the realms of being addictive. One fact cannot be gainsaid: The glucose in chocolate triggers a release in bodily endorphins – the body's natural opiates – which in turn can promote another cycle of craving.
It is a fact that women are the greater consumers of chocolates and numerous studies have endeavored to explain why that is so. Although one group of women may enjoy chocolate simply as a guilt-free treat, or an energy-boost, another group may seem to be obsessed by it. Unsubstantiated surveys of women interviewees have indicated that:
- 97% reported some sort of craving, 66% of which are directed toward chocolate.
- 50% tend to choose chocolate over sex.
- 22% were more inclined than men to choose chocolate as a mood elevator.
Some psychiatrists have suggested that the mechanism that regulates the bodily level of PEA (see earlier) may actually be faulty in some women. This factor may explain a tendency to binge on chocolate after an emotional upset – and thus it is an instinctive form of self-medication to counter the imbalance of mood controlling chemicals.
But to balance these contentions, there are probably more women who could readily point to a man whose cravings are even more intense. What CAN be said without argument though, is that the wide-ranging seduction of chocolate is still pervasive as it was for the ancient Mayans.
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