Chocolate: Good or Bad?

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.

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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.

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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.

9 thoughts on “Chocolate: Good or Bad?

  1. Lisa Marie Acerba

    Chocolate is one of my absolute favorite things on this earth so I cannot imagine getting heads from something that I love so much. I have also heard this same theory of the correlation between chocolate and headaches. I also found it interesting where you talked about chocolate releasing chemicals that actually make the brain happy. Just recently I read an article about chocolate actually producing a higher satisfaction level in one’s brain than when two human beings kiss. Funny how things play out! Nice blog report!

  2. Julie Ramioulle

    I too am from somewhere where eating chocolate is inescapable; Belgium! Growing up with Belgian chocolate in my house pretty much 24/7 made it pretty difficult to resist, as you can imagine. Although, unlike your mother, my family and I have never developed headaches as a side effect. This could very well prove the point that daily coffee drinkers, like myself, aren’t as sensitive to the caffeine in chocolate. Another aspect of chocolate that had no direct correlation was between chocolate and the satisfaction of craving it. Perhaps there’s similar confounding variables between all of these studies like the aroma, sweetness, texture, and calories considering the different types of chocolate?

  3. cvp5306

    As a person who has always struggled with headaches and has been to dozens of doctors I can say that chocolate is bad. I think that it depends on the person but chocolate has been proven time and time again to be a trigger for headaches. In order to expand your study you might want to look at different types of chocolate also look at the caffeine content because that is what causes the headaches because of dehydration. I am saying all of this out of personal experience but I am sure there is some concrete proof out in the world to back up my thinking.

    If you want to look into this topic further coffee also has many negative effects when it comes to headaches and other health problems.

  4. cvp5306

    As a person who has always struggled with headaches and has been to dozens of doctors I can say that chocolate is bad. I think that it depends on the person but chocolate has been proven time and time again to be a trigger for headaches. In order to expand your study you might want to look at different types of chocolate also look at the caffeine content because that is what causes the headaches because of dehydration. I am saying all of this out of personal experience but I am sure there is some concrete proof out in the world to back up my thinking.

    If you want to look into this topic further coffee also has many negative effects when it comes to headaches and other health problems.

  5. Jenna Snyder

    Your article has helped me so much, it is nice to know that I am not alone when it comes to getting migraines, especially those caused by chocolate. I am sorry to hear that your mother suffers from them too because they truly are the worst. What I didn’t know was what chemicals, in the chocolate, caused the headaches to start. Foods high in salt such as ramen noodles (a college must have) are also known to cause migraines. I also agree with a previous comment in that they conclusion paragraph does help to sum it all up. Thank you for your help in understanding the science behind chocolate causing migraines.

  6. Brendan Feifer

    Hi Bailee,
    I found this post to be quite compelling because my mom is also a heavy consumer of chocolate for the exact opposite reason that serves as the basis of this post. When my mom gets migraines throughout the day, she’ll consume chocolate because of the caffeine intake and it will restore her energy, which usually gets rid of the headache. Sometimes she will consume caffeinated beverages for that very same reason. I believe chocolate is indeed a tasty treat, but as you acknowledged, the health factors vary depending on the individual.

  7. James Joseph Burke

    I found this extremely amusing, especially hearing about the benefits that chocolate can provide for a person. I never would have believed that chocolate is healthier than green tea and certain types of fruits! I also can believe that although chocolate can provide benefits, it can also create other health issues if consumed in large quantities. I also wonder if possibly your mother has some sort of allergic reaction to chocolate? Unfortunately for myself I am a milk chocolate fan, so the antioxidants that dark chocolate provide don’t exactly help me.

  8. Sara Grace Perlowitz

    I am really glad that you wrote a conclusion for the end of your blog. It helped to have a little summary at the end for you to wrap up all of your thoughts on each side. I would have never thought that chocolate could be linked to headaches, but I guess you could start to not feel well depending on how much of it you eat. I love hearing that dark chocolate is the healthiest because it is my favorite kind of chocolate and I feel less guilty when I eat it. I am glad I am not one of those people who get headaches after eating chocolate, although I would probably eat it anyway and take some Advil afterwards! Interesting article!

  9. Angelique L Santiago

    This is very interesting. I had no idea that chocolate could cause people pain either, especially because whenever I have chocolate I become a lot happier. It makes me even happier knowing that dark chocolate contains antioxidants that are healthy for you because, for me, it makes my chocolatey snacks seem reasonable rather than a “guilty pleasure.” Although, I must admit, the only kind of chocolate that brings me displeasure is white chocolate. Honestly, I don’t even consider it to be real chocolate. Did you know that white chocolate doesn’t even contain cocoa?? If not, you could read more about how white chocolate is a fraud in the following link. http://www.diffen.com/difference/Dark_Chocolate_vs_White_Chocolate

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