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Is chocolate really addictive

Is chocolate really addictive
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We often joke about being a chocoholic or becoming addicted to chocolate. But for some people, even if it’s not an outright addiction, beating the craving to eat chocolate can be a real problem.

Negative impact

Everyone knows that chocolate isn’t particularly healthy for you. However, that doesn’t stop us chomping our way through an estimated 660,900 tonnes every year in the UK. Chocolate contains high levels of fat and sugar and so indulging a little too much can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. Despite the negative impact chocolate can have on out health, many of us still reach for a bar perhaps a little too often, leading some people to believe that chocolate can indeed be addictive.

Mood

When we eat chocolate – or any other sweet high-fat food – the chemical serotonin is released into the body, which boost moods and makes us feel good. Most antidepressants aim to raise levels of serotonin or keep it around for longer, so there is something to be said for chocolate having a positive effect on moods.

Unfortunately, a 2007 study for Appetite showed that chocolate only makes us feel better for around three minutes, suggesting that the mood enhancer is more to do with taste and texture than chemicals, which would take up to an hour to reach the brain. Combine a desire to repeat the fleeting rush with the fact that a chocolate splurge often leaves us feeling guilty and looking for something to pick up our mood again and we probably well on the way to realising why people keep reaching for another square.

Culture

However, research suggests that chocolate cravings are a psychosomatic and cultural effect rather than a physical addiction. While there are chemicals such as caffeine in chocolate, the amounts present are not really enough to get you hooked. It’s more likely that cravings for chocolate come from the way people perceive it. In the western world chocolate is regarded as being ‘naughty but nice’. Think of how it’s advertised, using very sensual images that suggest arousal. Because we know chocolate is a little naughty, it makes us want it more.

Overeating

Is chocolate really addictiveBeing a chocoholic can often be linked to overeating in general rather than a specific addiction to chocolate itself. Stress and anxiety in life frequently leads to comfort eating – and let’s face it, who comfort eats broccoli or lettuce? Those who find themselves overeating sugary high-fat foods like chocolate do sometimes have underlying issues that need addressed. That’s not to say that everyone reaching for a Dairy Milk to see them through the afternoon slump needs counselling, but in some cases extra help may be needed.

Cutting down

Whether or not chocolate addiction is an actual thing, it’s a good idea to try to be sensible in the amount you eat. There’s absolutely no need to give up chocolate altogether but by buying smaller bars, not having it around and making a conscious decision to consume it you’ll find you end up eating less. If you’re determined to cut down then keep a stock of other healthier sweet treats, such as dried fruits, handy.

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About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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