What about the chocolate?
Easter had passed and I was safe, since I had exiled with my father and wife deep into the forest in Mato Grosso for some ecotourism I was far from any resource of chocolate that would temptate them to give me one of those huge coloured chocolate eggs that are so visually attractive. No way, a friend meets me at university and gives me two bars of infinite calories for me. Oh, I will have to add a few kilometers to my jogging this week!
Why is chocolate so irresisteble? There must be something of acquired value and symbolism, but I, as always, will take it to the biological side of it, not the cultural one (as IF culture was not the result of biological factors!). Perhaps the answer resides some 12 thousand years ago, in our Paleolithic brains. In that time getting food was extremely complicated, even more for food items with a high uptake of energy, like sugar or fat, two of the main components of chocolate. Our brain have, since then, a mecanism to prize us with a great sensation of well-being when we acquire these foods with heaps of sugar and fat by the injection of endorphine, a natural opioid, into the blood stream. Thus, we are compelled to repeat the behaviour, something like a dog that always obey to the owners commands to get a biscuit. In our brain the reward system is placed in the amidal, two structures with the shape of a peanut deep in our encephalon. The matter is that food rich in carbohydrates are abundant today, what generated the actual obesity epidemic.
Besides, the chocolate is a real mix of substances capable of altering the mood. The first and better recognized of them is Triptophane, an essential amino-acid (not produced in our bodies) that is the main component of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is the substance responsible for feeling calm, it reduces drastically the anxiety. Other substances are caffeine and theobromine, which enhance awareness, disposition and metabolism. Although, the concentration of caffeine in a cup of tea or coffee or in a glass of coke is much higher then in a bar of chocolate. The third chemical substance found in the chocolate that may have psychotropic effects is anandamid, a cannabinoyd (yep, similar to marijuana) naturally present in our brain and enhanced by the intake of chocolate. Hold in mind, though, that to get a chocolate high you should eat a few kilograms of the yummy stuff. The last substance actually known is phenilethilamine, or PEA. It acts like an anphetamine and is in the same class of products as antidepressives, stimulants and some hallucinogens. Nevertheless, its effects are still barely known. What is known is that most of the PEA is degraded by enzymes before it reaches the central nervous system, what avoids a greater psychotropic action.
The bars are in my backpack, waiting to go to my refrigerator because the typical state of the chocolate in Mato Grosso is liquid. Taking care of the caloric intake the chocolate even has benefits to your health. I can barely wait to eat mine. Happy Easter!
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