The Origin of Chocolate and Its Addictivity

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Chocolate plays an important role in my life. Working at the Godiva store is perfect for my love of chocolate, I can enjoy it while at the same time educate customers and help them find the right ones for their palate. Many of my customers smile as they walk into the store and breathe in the chocolatey air. In my past two years of selling chocolate at the candy shop, my knowledge around chocolate has expanded substantially. Until recently, however, I never thought of chocolate and its chemical properties as a drug. Therefore this ignited my curiosity to continue to do more research on chocolate. Why is chocolate so addictive and why do women crave it during their menstrual cycles? How has what began as just a cacao bean grow into a booming industry?

Americas. It was spread to other parts of the world when colonizers had brought the fruit back to Europe. It tends to grow best in climates that are warm but requires sufficient shade to be protected from excess amounts of sunlight. This precious fruit has made its way into our modern-day society as a staple. It went from being eaten in the purest form, cacao, to fine chocolates that we have today with added ingredients. North America is the continent with the most demand, most likely due to its various holidays in which chocolates and candies are centered around. Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas time is when chocolate is in high demand because customers tend to give them as gifts for their friends or their family. Chocolate manufacturers that are known in households now such as the Hershey company, Mars and Guittard are known to dominate the confectionery industry. The confectionery industry in America is one of the most profitable industries in the United States valued at 49400 million and projected to continue growing exponentially in the next upcoming years (MarketWatch, 2019). For the confectionery industry as the market increases and becomes more and more valuable, there will not be a decline in sight for the near future for the need for sweets, especially chocolate.

Eating a piece of chocolate and letting it melt in your mouth is a gratifying sensation. Sometimes you just want to eat more and more until you eat the entire chocolate bar. There are properties in chocolate similar to drugs that make it addictive (Casperson, 2019). However no one ever thinks about chocolate as a drug, to children and families, it is seen as a delicious treat. Parents are likely to restrict their child’s intake when it comes to chocolate or candy consumption. But what about those who do not have someone to restrict them? Chocoholism is a term that is used to describe those who abuse chocolate and as a result, impacts their day to day life, it is very much common within people. They share similar properties to substance abuse such as being unable to cut intake, trying to give up chocolate but end up relapsing, feeling guilty after eating it and so much more (Maccioni P., Colombo G., 2016). Though chocoholism may not be as severe as other drug addictions, the addictive properties in chocolate come from taste, smell, texture, when ingested it activates dopamine pathways giving it a satisfying sensation (Bassareo V, Di Chiara G, 1999). As a result, this is probably why it’s so easy to eat more and more, piece by piece. Effects from a chocolate addiction however compared to an addiction such as alcohol may be less severe than its counterparts. Too much chocolate consumption may not be ideal and the best for our bodies, but there are still benefits to eating a good and reasonable amount of chocolate.

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Consuming chocolate has many health benefits, though we do not tell our children this. “Darker” chocolate tends to refer to the cacao content in the chocolate product, the higher the percentage, the “darker” it is. I was told at a young age that “dark chocolate was better than milk chocolate”, I began hearing this phrase more when people would walk into my candy shop and remind their partner or friends that it was better to eat dark chocolate for their health. Eating dark chocolate has shown to decrease blood pressure in elders, increase the number of antioxidants in your blood and is beneficial for weight loss (Why is Dark Chocolate Healthier Than Milk Chocolate, 2016). Chocolate is probably one of the best things you can eat for your health because it can act as preventative medicine or remedy for illnesses. The Aztecs used cacao beans as remedies for stomach and intestinal complaints, control childhood diarrhea, reduce fevers while centuries later chocolate has been recognized to help excrete kidney stones, increase the production of breast milk and lower the amount of “female complaints” (Wilson, 2015.). Tempting as it sounds that chocolate contains properties that are beneficial to our health, this is no excuse to go and run out to consume huge amounts of chocolate. Women however often consume chocolate more than men with their menstrual cycle to possibly play a factor (Brillo and Renzo, 2015).

Speaking as a woman myself, during my menstruation cycle, I tend to crave sweets and chocolates more than usual. There are even companies such as the pill club that sends out chocolate to women along with their birth control to counter any cravings that they may have during that time of the month. I have to admit, when I have a piece of chocolate on my period, it tends to make me feel better in a way that I forget about the pain that I am in during that time of the month. It’s stressful to be a woman. However, for women, eating chocolate may feel like they are treating themselves, the brain craves for this type of food leading to many women tend to experience more cravings for chocolate around the perimenstrual period (Brillo and Renzo, 2015). I can recall the day my sister started her cycle, she eyed me eating a milk chocolate bar and immediately demanded that I give her the chocolate bar. My brother would never demand a chocolate bar like how my sister did. I later learned that the cravings that women have for chocolate can come in episodes and heighten or lower depending on hormonal changes during the time of menstruation, linking hormones and gender-specific cravings (Bruinsma). Chocolate plays an important role in women’s lives and without it, the emotions women go through because of their hormones may spiral out of control. Luckily with the amount of chocolate that is available in the market to satisfy our needs, we can control and cure our chocolate cravings when and as needed.

Chocolate has been apart of the world dating back to the beginning of the time. This wonderful fruit has been transformed from being eaten as its beans, to confectionary items. The industry plays a vital role in the world, adding sweetness and delight and huge profits. As it brings in huge profits, it is still expected to grow exponentially. Coming out of the factory and into the supermarkets, the sweetness is readily there waiting for you. Just eating a piece of chocolate and letting it melt in your mouth can feel very satisfying and pleasurable to the mind. Not only is it just a treat but there are added benefits to our health by eating chocolate, not in high amounts but good reasonable ones. Darker chocolates contain more cacao content that can benefit our health, however the darker the chocolate the more bitter it is causing some to be unable to eat higher percentage bars. It has been known since the time of the Aztec Empire that there are properties that can remedy certain illnesses and act as preventative medicine. Women benefit a lot from chocolate as their cravings for it tends to heighten and revolve around their cycle. Overall chocolate plays a vital role in our lives, though it has “addictive” like properties similar to drugs, who can resist this delectable treat.

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