Bittersweet test results show stronger reactions to dark chocolate than to kissing a sweetie
by Craig Weatherby
Even though the study was rather silly, sponsored by a chocolate maker, and conducted by a food industry research consultancy, we couldn’t resist reporting its rather startling results.
The experiment was led by neuro-psychologist David Lewis, formerly of the University of Sussex, who now runs The Mind Lab.
Mind Lab specializes in quantified electroencephalography: a non-invasive way to detect and analyze electrical activity in the brain, to better understand how people are thinking and feeling during everyday activities.
They recruited couples in their 20s and monitored the participants’ brain activity and heart rates under two conditions:
- While they let dark chocolate melt in their mouths.
- While they kissed their sweethearts.
Although kissing raised subjects’ heart rates, the effect did not last as long as the ones elicited by melting chocolate slowly in the mouth, which more than doubled heart rates, from 60 to 140 beats per minute.
The Mind Lab team also found that as the chocolate started melting, all regions of the brain received a boost far more intense and longer lasting than the stimulation induced by kissing.
And although women are presumed to love chocolate more than men, the researchers recorded similar reactions to chocolate in both sexes.
As Dr. Lewis told the BBC, “There is no doubt that chocolate beats kissing hands down when it comes to providing a long-lasting body and brain buzz… a buzz that, in many cases, lasted four times as long as the most passionate kiss.”
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which can raise levels of opiate-like, pleasure-inducing endorphins in the brain. It also contains a caffeine-like chemical—theobromine—that exerts mild stimulatory effects on the brain.
The researchers used a 60 percent cocoa dark chocolate, and it seems likely that our extra dark, 80 percent cocoa organic bars would elicit even more excitement. (It's not certain that a standard 35 percent cocoa milk chocolate would have produced reactions as intense.)
And it seems to have been a fair “fight” since, according to the researchers, the kisses weren’t just quick pecks. To the contrary, things got a bit steamy sometimes, with embarrassingly unscientific levels of passion displayed by some pairs.
Nations' chocolate cravings parallel their reputations for passion
The results of another study suggest a close relationship between a nation’s general liking for chocolate and its overall attitude toward romance.
According to cocoa company Barry Callebaut, 57 percent of the famously romantic French eat dark chocolate, compared with 47 percent of Belgians, 40 percent of the Swiss, 35 percent of Brits, and a pathetic seven percent of the stereotypically un-passionate Germans.
One question remains… does chocolate make people love romance, or vice versa?