Increasing Chocolate's Sugar Content Enhances Its Psychoactive Effects and Intake

Nutrients. 2019 Mar 12;11(3):596. doi: 10.3390/nu11030596.


Chocolate elicits unique brain activity compared to other foods, activating similar brain regions and neurobiological substrates with potentially similar psychoactive effects as substances of abuse. We sought to determine the relationship between chocolate with varying combinations of its main constituents (sugar, cocoa, and fat) and its psychoactive effects. Participants consumed 5 g of a commercially available chocolate with increasing amounts of sugar (90% cocoa, 85% cocoa, 70% cocoa, and milk chocolates). After each chocolate sample, participants completed the Psychoactive Effects Questionnaire (PEQ). The PEQ consists of questions taken from the Morphine-Benzedrine Group (MBG), Morphine (M,) and Excitement (E) subscales of the Addiction Research Center Inventory. After all testing procedures, participants completed the Binge Eating Scale (BES) while left alone and allowed to eat as much as they wanted of each of the different chocolates. We found a measurable psychoactive dose⁻effect relationship with each incremental increase in the chocolate's sugar content. The total number of positive responses and the number of positive responses on the E subscale began increasing after tasting the 90% cocoa chocolate, whereas the number of positive responses on the MBG and M subscales began increasing after tasting the 85% cocoa chocolate sample. We did not find a correlation between BES scores and the total amount of chocolate consumed or self-reported scores on the PEQ. These results suggest that each incremental increase in chocolate's sugar content enhances its psychoactive effects. These results extend our understanding of chocolate's appeal and unique ability to prompt an addictive-like eating response.

Keywords: Addiction Research Center Inventory; addictive-like eating; chocolate; craving; eating behavior; sugar.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chocolate / analysis*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sugars / chemistry*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Sugars