Chocolate: The world’s favorite Valentine

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By mattwu

If you are like me on Valentine’s Day, then you must be tired of hearing that you’re single, that your friends are single, that Union is single and that everyone in the world that you know is single and depressed about it.

But to those single people, I prescribe a quick and easy remedy this Valentine’s Day: chocolate. Truly, the “love drug” candy is better than any man or woman for three simple reasons: chocolate always puts your pleasure first, it will never leave you and you never have to fake satisfaction after it. Also, no one can shame you for having multiple in a day!

Americans spend an average of $1.6 billion on Valentine’s Day chocolates alone. Chocolate has been associated with romance for centuries and continues to be emblematic of love. However, this is not by coincidence but rather the result of its rich history, chemical composition and surrounding myth.

Since its invention by the Aztecs in 1100 BCE, chocolate – a beverage of royalty called xocolatl – was considered to be a pure, unadulterated substance of love. The Aztecs believed that it was an aphrodisiac, capable of boosting sexual potency like the modern day Viagra. It is recorded that the ancient Aztec ruler, King Montezuma, would drink upwards of 50 servings in order to make himself perpetually virile for his many wives.

Even as the Europeans brought chocolate back to Europe, chocolate retained its status as the candy of romance. It is said that Madame Du Barry served chocolate to all of her many suitors, and Casanova used chocolate rather than champagne as part of his seduction repertoire. Queen Victoria believed that providing her soldiers with chocolate would enhance their physical performance and gifted packages of cocoa to her armies before battles.

Though chocolate has transformed from royal luxury to common necessity, it remains to this day the cultural sweet for the heartbroken and lovestruck alike.

But chocolate’s rich history does not narrate the full story of its unbreakable bond with love. It turns out that chocolate’s chemical composition adds a deeper meaning to heart-shaped chocolates.

Chocolate chemically affects the brain because eating it releases high concentrations of certain neurotransmitters. Depending on the amount of neurotransmitters already present in the brain, these concentrations can be extremely potent.

The strongest compound in chocolate is phenylethylamine. Dubbed the “chocolate amphetamine,” it increases blood pressure and alertness in the brain. It causes the pulse to quicken, similar to the feeling of being in love.

Even more interesting is lipid anandamide, also found in chocolate. Lipid anandamide’s chemical structure resembles that of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the main agent in marijuana. At its introduction to the brain, it triggers a release of dopamine to create feelings of elation and relaxation. Thus, the “sugar high” achieved after consuming an entire box of Valentine’s Day chocolate has greater truth to it than one may think. However, it would take 25 pounds of chocolate to reach the same levels of high from marijuana, so don’t try getting the munchies from munching on chocolate.

Furthermore, chocolate acts as a true aphrodisiac, heightening the sensual mood for when the flowers and champagne are lacking. It provides a mood boost for women during PMS or menstruation as well. This stems from the combination of chocolate compounds acting in the brain as it triggers a release of serotonin.

Serotonin is found in highest concentrations during sexual pleasure and therefore is called the “feel good” compound. People with low levels of serotonin have been found to have higher rates of violence, aggressive behaviors and suicide. Thus, for the desperate boyfriends out there, chocolate can be the easiest and most potent medication for gloomy girlfriends undergoing their time of the month.

Along with extra endorphins and theobromine (which acts similarly to caffeine), chocolate’s unique chemical composition synergistically acts to create the feeling of euphoria more reliably than any man or woman.

Thus, this Valentine’s Day, do not fret about finding “Mr. or Ms. Perfect.” Save the effort. Instead, look to the beautiful variety of chocolate – all types like dark, white, milk, peanut butter, fruity, almond-stuffed, peanut-filled, coffee-laced and caramel-covered – and remember that chocolate will always be better than another human being. No one will come close.

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