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Can chocolate trigger drug like cravings?

Posted in: Weight Loss 26 Sep, 2012

Describing yourself, as a ‘chocoholic’ may not just be a frivolous attempt to justify your persistent cravings for the coco treat. In fact comparing your chocolate cravings to a chemical dependency, although may sound far-fetched; could not be as farfetched as you think. According to the Daily Mail a study has claimed that chocolate ‘can create the same high as the drug opium’ and that there are a number of similarities, such as the urges and cravings experienced between an obese person and a drug addict.

The theory that chocolate addiction is real is a good excuse if like me you often find yourself indulging in a king size Galaxy chocolate bar entirely by yourself, trying and failing miserably to stop.

The Experiment

The study taken from the University of Michigan, looked at the natural brain chemical enkephalin, which has properties that are similar to opium (is the active ingredient in heroin), surged when rats were fed M & M chocolate treats. Further findings saw how synthetic opiate similar to enkephalin was used as a stimulant and injected into the brain, causing aggressive feasting amongst the rats. As a result the number of M & M chocolates consumed by the rats had doubled. Researchers also wanted to check for any signs (such as licking their lips) to suggest that the rats during their frantic consumption of the chocolate treats had actually enjoyed it. Results showed however, that the rats although had frenziedly fed on the treats, did not appear to enjoy them.

Compulsive eating disorders

The NHS states binge eating as an eating disorder in which a person feels compelled to eat on a regular basis with the inability to stop and consumes large quantities of food over a short period of time. Despite consuming excessive amounts of food, most binge eaters while doing so are not actually hungry. Once a person has binged, they will often feel repulsed and guilty of their behaviour. Further feelings of depression and anxiety are usually linked with the condition and are often the result of underlining psychological issues. According to the NHS, binge eating can often be linked to obesity. Obesity can create a number of health problems that are long lasting such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and type2 diabetes.


But we should ask the question whether these findings compare the addiction of a drug addict to a person who is obese and subsequently is addicted to a food such as chocolate. The leader of the study, Dr Alexandra DiFeliceantonio has argued that: ‘The same brain area tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes. It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people.’

The comparison between a drug addict craving a fix and a person addicted to chocolate does seem extreme and the research fails to clearly show or address the link between obesity (binge eating) and drug addicts. The study does effectively show how the chemical enkephalin found in chocolate can contribute to a person’s cravings and inability (despite wanting) to stop, such as people suffering from a binge eating disorder and obesity.

For me it may also explain the chocolate euphoria felt when overindulging in Galaxy chocolate, as well as my lack of ability to refrain from eating the whole bar. A feat that I often fail in.


  • Jessica BrownThursday, Oct 04, 2012

    No one has ever believed me about my addiction to chocolate so im happy that this blog has highlighted the issue

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