Chocolate and Mood

Depending on who you ask, you might hear that “Chocolate appears to promote the neurotransmitter serotonin release as well, thereby producing calming, pleasurable feelings,” (Chocolate as Medicine).

Hernando Cortés, the Spaniard who took control of the Aztec empire, also noticed it’s stimulating effect, saying that “A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”

The general sense of positivity might come from biogenic amines like phenylethylamine or the cannabinoid anandamide, while theobromine is almost certainly the stimulant. There’s probably also a psychological component. Chocolate is associated with holidays and special events, love and happiness. Those associations inform the feelings we experience when we eat chocolate, in addition to whatever chemical effect it has.

The Bitter Aphrodisiac

illustration of madame de pompadour reading the joy of sex, winking, and licking chocolate off her lips
Madame de Pompadour

When first introduced to Europe, chocolate was hailed as an aphrodisiac—reportedly it was a favorite drink of Casanova. One account claims that Madame de Pompadour, a mistress to Louis XV, used chocolate to “become hot-blooded” when the king claimed she was a “cold fish.” Another report claims that the roles were reversed and Pompadour recommended it to the king, who was otherwise “cold as a dead duck.” Madame du Barry, the last official mistress to Louis XV, also provided chocolate to her numerous lovers.

If you want to improve your mood with chocolate, you should know that the effect probably won’t last. At least one researcher has found that while people enjoy anticipating and eating chocolate, that pleasure doesn’t negate depression and it is often followed by guilt.

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