Chocolate Cravings and Alcohol Addiction

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For years people have claimed to be addicted to chocolate and now there is new scientific evidence that reveals some addictive qualities in the tasty treat. The same alkaloid compounds found in alcohol are also present in chocolate, researchers say. This could also explain why many people recovering from alcoholism use chocolate to curb their craving for alcohol, especially in early sobriety. 

Researchers at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research in Madrid are the first to find that ordinary cocoa and chocolate bars contain a group of alkaloids known as tetrahydro-beta-carbolines, according to researcher Tomas Herraiz. In previous research, the same chemicals were linked to alcoholism, he said. The family of compounds, which are also known as neuroactive alkaloids, continues to be investigated for possible influences on mood and behavior.

In an earlier study by Italian scientists, "caffeine and magnesium are often suggested as potential contributors to the craving," Herraiz said. "Now we can enlarge this list to include these compounds." Higher levels of the compounds seem to correlate with the amount of cocoa in a sample, he reported. The darker the chocolate, the more of the compounds it contains, the news release said.

Women More Affected By Chocolate Cravings

Women seem to be more prone to chocolate cravings than men. A report found that 14% of males appear to crave chocolate, and as much as 39% of women crave it.

Because chocolate cravings may be influenced by a deficiency in magnesium, this may be why some experience an increase in chocolate cravings during PMS (premenstrual syndrome). For most people, craving chocolate is in no way harmful, but if it rises to the level of "binge eating" it can be a real problem.

Chocolate is the food most desired by women who binge eat, because of a brain chemical that gives them physical pleasure from the sweet indulgence, says University of Michigan nutritionist Adam Drewnowski. Drewnowski's research found that Naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of opioids, can reduce craving in binge eaters, but Naloxone is available only intravenously, which makes it impractical for chronic bingers. Drewnowski is searching for an easier-to-take drug.

A Word From Verywell

Like with any food or substance that has the potential to be addictive, it's best to practice moderation. Eat just a little bit and seek out pure chocolate or dark chocolate with nuts or fresh fruit versus high-sugar fillings like caramel or nougat. Do your best to take back control of your chocolate craving. Grab a piece of fruit, distract yourself by going for a walk, or just wait it out until it passes.

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  1. Herraiz T. Tetrahydro-beta-carbolines, potential neuroactive alkaloids, in chocolate and cocoaJ Agric Food Chem. 2000;48(10):4900–4904. doi:10.1021/jf000508l

  2. Science Daily. Compounds also present in alcoholic beverages may explain chocolate cravings. Updated November 2000.

  3. Weingarten HP, Elston D. Food cravings in a college populationAppetite. 1991;17(3):167–175. doi:10.1016/0195-6663(91)90019-o

  4. Yanovski S. Sugar and fat: cravings and aversionsJ Nutr. 2003;133(3):835S–837S. doi:10.1093/jn/133.3.835S

  5. Drewnowski A, Krahn DD, Demitrack MA, Nairn K, Gosnell BA. Naloxone, an opiate blocker, reduces the consumption of sweet high-fat foods in obese and lean female binge eatersAm J Clin Nutr. 1995;61(6):1206–1212. doi:10.1093/ajcn/61.6.1206

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