Chocolate really is like a drug… here’s the science behind that statement!
A common scene post-Easter: you’ve broken all your chocolate eggs (who said that eggs were only for kids?) and you’ve unpacked all your chocolate bunnies. Then you are chilling out at home and fancy some chocolate to accompany your post-lunch or mid-afternoon coffee. One bite, two bites, three….and then, without even realizing it, you’ve eaten the whole bar! The problem is that chocolate is just too delicious to stop eating, it really is like a drug. Scientific proof comes from recent research carried out by the University of Michigan in the United States, whose results have been published in the journal “Current Biology”. It turns out there is a neurotransmitter in our brain which is responsible for chocolate addiction.
The area of the brain where scientists focused their research is the neostriatum, a critical component of the motor system. After inoculating a marker driver directly in mice brain, researchers observed an increased chocolate consumption in those animals treated with the marker.
Encephalin, the neurotransmitter
Drug injections cause an increased production of encephalin, the neurotransmitter involved in the pain and reward mechanism, whose activation opens the way to some kind of addictions, such as to opium or indeed to chocolate.
An extraordinary discovery
In the presence of encephalin, the neostriatum is activated; it happens, for example, when obese people cannot resist food pleasure even when they know is not good for their health. This discovery could represent an important turning point in our understanding of how to moderate some kind of negative addictions and in our struggle against obesity. In the meantime, in order to resist the lure of chocolate all we can do is exercise our free will and stop eating before we feel sick.