Chocolate And Its Effect On The Brain

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Chocolate. Ah, just the word makes one’s mouth water. Sweet, velvety, creamy, delicious. Most of us really only care about the taste, but do we actually know what chocolate is made of? Yes, yes, milk, cocoa, cream, and sugar are all correct answers, but, do most of us know what chocolate is made of on a molecular level? I think not. Do we know why we feel happy after eating it, chocolate tastes the way it does, why some types are creamier and smoother than others, etc. The answer all boils down to chemistry; a simple answer, yet complicated for many reasons. Chocolate contains many chemicals which affect the brain. The three primary chemicals are caffeine, theobromine, and tryptophan. 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine or caffeine (C8H10N4O2) is a stimulant that is near and dear to us all. It is the chemical that gives us a boost after consuming our morning coffee or drinking a soda. It excites our central nervous system which increases heart rate and contracts muscles. Caffeine affects dopamine and adenosine receptors in the brain which release pleasure producing chemicals. Theobromine (C7H8N4O2) is a bitter alkaloid derived from the cacao plant, which is the main component of chocolate. Theobromine and a similar effect to caffeine on the body, but it is not as strong; theobromine is essentially a mood-lifter (NBC LEARN). Tryptophan is an essential amino acid for humans, and since the body cannot manufacture it, it must be ingested. It plays an important role in the synthesis of

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