The most important thing I learnt from this human physiology course I’ve just completed is this: three reasons why you should eat chocolate!
1. Phenylethylamine – this is a chemical in chocolate that releases endorphins in the body. Endorphins are naturally occurring opioids, and opioids are things that reduce pain and make you happy
2. Tryptophan – this is a chemical that helps release serotonin in the body. It whizzes around the body releasing serotonin from places. Low serotonin levels have been directly correlated to depression, so having more serotonin in the body = less depressed! Huzzah! (Yes, an oversimplification, but I’m sure all can attest to the feelings of happiness induced by the consumption of pure, velvety, chocolate).
3. Theobromine – a chemical that is similar to caffeine in that it keeps you awake. It is a lot stronger than caffeine though, so it will keep you a whole lot more awake, but it does not last as long. Good for short bursts of energy during your exams!
During times of stress (ie exam period), everyone experiences a lack of sleep. Lack of sleep releases more cotisol, which mobilise amino acids to go through gluconeogenesis because the body really needs more glucose in the brain!
When you’re stressed or when your circadian rhythm is disrupted, your hypothalamus is stimulated and then the pituitary gland is stimulated to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which swims through your blood stream til it gets to your adrenals. Your adrenal glands then release glucocorticoids to try and generate more sugar:
1. the amino acids in your muscles will break down (less muscle mass!)
2. fats from your adipose tissue will mobilise in to action
3. amino acids will break down and go through gluconeogenesis in the liver
The adrenals will also send signals to the brain to stop producing ACTH and other hormones so that this production of glucose will stop when you have enough.
The adrenal gland is also where androgens can be produced. Androgens are the hormones that cause male characteristics (remember though, everyone has androgens and estrogens, it’s just that males have more androgens and females have much less). So what happens is you have this over-stimulation of the bit where glucocorticoids are produced, and so you produce more androgens as well! Androgens make you more feisty (ex/ higher testosterone is correlated to higher aggression in animals, and higher ‘dominance’ in men, which could manifest as violence). So that’s where the weird restlessness and frustration is coming from during prolonged stress. Androgens also help in weakening the immune system, which is one way stress causes sickness.
Stress also suppresses the immune system because… oh wait I have gone on a rather long tangent haven’t I?
Back to the point of this post. Chocolate is good for you because it makes you happy and awake, and being happy is good for you because that means you are not frustrated or stressed, which is good for you because your immune system won’t be destroyed, so you won’t get sick so easily! Huzzah! CHOCOLATE!
PS. If you want to study for a long period of time, my lecturer recommends a mocha, because it has caffeine AND theobromine!