I grew up in Middletown, Pennsylvania which is about 10 minutes away from the Hershey Chocolate Factory so it was inevitable that I would grow to love chocolate. My family does as well until my mother started developing headaches. She assumed that they were normal and were occurring for no exact reason until it became apparent that she would have one after consuming chocolate. It was a peculiar idea to think that chocolate, something so sweet and delicious, could cause her pain. Now, she avoids eating chocolate as much as she can, and it seems to have made a difference. It was for this reason that I became interested in discovering the reasons why chocolate can have such negative effects.
Live Strong magazine states that, “chocolate can create a sensation of well-being and alertness, but it can also cause migraine headaches in some people” (Hill). Chocolate contains the chemical tyramine which has been linked to headaches according to studies. Experts have found that it can cause nerve cells in the brain to release the chemical norepinephrine. These odd levels of chemicals can cause changes in the brain which lead to headaches. Chocolate also has the chemical phenylalanine which has proven in several studies to trigger headaches. There is also a small amount of caffeine that is used in the making of chocolate. A lot would need to be consumed for it to be equivalent to a cup of coffee, but individuals who are sensitive to caffeine may have a reaction to chocolate. Others who are daily coffee drinkers may be immune.
On the other hand, chocolate has many positive benefits as well. It is full of antioxidants and nutritional compounds that help the body. Dark chocolate is said to be the best option and is even believed to be healthier than green tea or even fruit in regards to the amount of antioxidants it has. It also signals to the brain to release opiates and dopamine which cause happy sensations. People experience increased levels of serotonin and endorphin and these can actually help to suppress headaches rather than cause them. A study was conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Pain Evaluation and Treatment after a questionnaire revealed that 20-30% of people believed that chocolate was a trigger for their headaches. The results showed that there is no direction correlation between that foods that we consume and headaches. Many of the respondents said that chocolate was the trigger based off of what they had heard from others.
To conclude, the effects of chocolate depend greatly on the individual himself and can either provide a nutritional value or the exact opposite. Although there are no studies at the moment that prove that foods cause headaches, making the right decisions and knowing which foods are best is still extremely important.