Biogenic Amines

Literally, these are “amines produced by living organisms or biological processes,” and they show up all over the place in biological systems. In the human body, various biogenic amines serve as neurotransmitters regulating everything from sleep and appetite to motivation and addiction.
Some of the biogenic amines present in chocolate affect the vascular system, causing symptoms like blushing and blood pressure variations. It’s possible for their effects to be more severe, though, ranging from headaches to potentially-fatal cardiovascular shock. Fortunately, the quantity of biogenic amines in chocolate is small, though it may increase slightly with extra roasting.
Perhaps the best-documented single biogenic amine in chocolate is phenylethylamine, which triggers the release of dopamine and noradrenaline in humans. Some people think it is responsible for chocolate’s aphrodisiac effect, because dopamine is associated with infatuation and love. Others claim it may delay fatigue and increase stamina—something people have believed about chocolate since the early colonial era, if not before.
Some chocolate experts, however, argue that the amount of phenylethylamine in cacao is so minuscule that it’s effect on neurochemistry is negligible. So far, there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to definitively sway the argument in either direction, and it’s complicated by the differences between individuals and the brain’s ability to acclimate to stimuli.
Another biogenic amine that could be responsible for the joy people derive from chocolate is anandamide. That’s because it is a cannabanoid compound; it activates the same receptors in the human nervous system as the THC in cannabis. It’s unlikely you’ll get high off chocolate, though—like phenylethylamine, anandamide shows up in chocolate in very low concentrations. If you try to reach an altered state of consciousness by eating cacao, you’ll probably only be conscious of a full stomach.

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