Chocolate Addiction is Real?

Research shows people can exhibit the same signs of addiction toward chocolate as they do with drugs or alcohol.

chocolateYeah, our mouths are watering too. Photo via Shutterstock

If you’ve ever plowed through a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk Ben & Jerry’s without blinking an eye (and really, who hasn’t?), and your idea of a good Valentine’s Day is a date with a big old box of chocolates, new research says your habits could be more than just a sweet tooth. A post on the Harvard Health Blog by Michael Craig Miller, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor of at Harvard Mental Health Publishing, says you could actually be addicted to chocolate.

Miller says that researchers have observed all three major hallmarks of addiction—craving, losing control of that craving, and continued use of a substance despite risks or consequences—when it comes to eating habits. He several studies that suggest chocolate can trigger cravings similar to those that drug and alcohol addicts experience, likely because the fat and sugar in the treat activate the reward centers in the brain, causing you to want it again and again. He also mentions a study in which Yale researchers used brain imaging on subjects as they saw, smelled, and ate chocolate. The findings? Their brain activity was similar to that of bonafide drug addicts.

Miller also touches on the link between obesity and food addiction in the post, noting that unhealthy eating binges are often tied to stress much in the same way drug and alcohol relapses often occur after a life trauma, and that those who struggle with their weight often experience extreme cravings and loss of control over dietary habits, even if the face of serious health problems. To avoid getting to that point, Miller advises:

“The next time you feel the pull of chocolate, pay attention to it. But instead of automatically reaching for your preferred candy bar or fudgy ice cream, take a few moments to actively decide whether or not to indulge the desire. If you decide to have chocolate, focus on each bite, slowly, to extend the pleasure in it.”

And whether or not chocolate addiction is a real condition, there’s some good news for the cocoa crazy: Prevention says eating chocolate can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and increase blood flow to the brain, among other things. Now if only it benefitted our waistlines.