Why does chocolate make us happy?

We’ve all experienced it: that moment of happiness that chocolate brings! But how does it come about? Kägi has been looking for answers.

Schokolade Macht Gluecklich

Bite into a piece of chocolate, close your eyes and savour the moment – happiness can be so easy to achieve! But why does chocolate actually make us happy? One explanation is to be found in the particular constituents of cacao, the main ingredient of chocolate, which are said to have a mood-enhancing effect.

One of them is tryptophan. The body uses it to produce the mood-elevating substance of serotonin – also known as the happiness hormone. The sugar in the chocolate also plays a role in this. Because the insulin released in response to the sugar facilitates the journey of the tryptophan to the brain where it engenders happiness.

But that is not the only miracle constituent to be found in cacao: in addition to stimulating caffeine and caffeine-like theobromine, it also contains phenylethylamine, a substance released by the body when new love blossoms. So with every bit of chocolate you nibble, you also get a touch of butterflies in the tummy.

Because these substances are only present in chocolate in quite small quantities, experts are unable to agree on their direct mood-elevating effect. Rather, the pleasure derived from eating chocolate is probably largely attributable to psychological factors:

We associate chocolate with happy moments

There’s more to what we eat than meets the eye, it also evokes memories! With chocolate in particular, these memories are overwhelmingly positive for most people: back in our childhood, chocolate was eaten at happy holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Secretly fished out of the cupboard at our grandparents. Or given to our valentines.

These delightful memories are reawakened by the familiar taste of chocolate, giving rise to an agreeable feeling of happiness and making the moment something very special.

Whether the chocolate-induced mood uplift is due to particular active ingredients or is more psychological in nature is really incidental. The most important message is: chocolate makes you happy!

18. January 2017