PEA Phenylethylamine – Does It Cause Those Chocolate Cravings?

Studies show that chocolate is the most craved food among the female population. Chocolate contains many ingredients that, when combined together, ultimately result to the phenomenon of cravings that occur among women.

One of those ingredients is PEA phenylethylamine, a naturally occurring substance derived from phenylalanine. It is an essential amino acid that is present in both human and animal breast milk and popularly used as a nutritional supplement for its ability to fight depression and anxiety, and to increase energy and stamina among high performance athletes.

PEA Phenylethylamine, like amphetamine, is responsible for releasing the hormones dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, making a person feel elated and uplifted.

People who are severely deficient in phenylethylamine in their diet may suffer from ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and those who have too much of this substance in their system may manifest symptoms of schizophrenia.

However, when taken orally, potency of phenylethylamine is greatly reduced because it undergoes chemical changes in the liver before it goes into the bloodstream for final distribution in the body. It is metabolized by the enzyme monoamine oxidase-B or MAO-B in the liver which greatly reduces its psychoactive effect before it reaches the brain.

The phenomenon of chocolate craving among women is not only attributed to the phenylethylamine or PEA content in chocolates but also to the combined effects of other chemical compounds found in chocolates. The craving is also attributed to hormonal changes, specifically episodes of estrogen fluctuations that occur before and after a woman’s menses. This monthly occurrence is probably the reason why craving for chocolates is most often attributed to women.

Aside from PEA phenylethylamine, chocolate contains theobromine, the main chemical ingredient found in chocolates. Theobromine belongs to the class of methylxanthines which include caffeine and theophylline but its effect on the central nervous system is less than that of caffeine. It is also the ingredient responsible for giving chocolate its aphrodisiac characteristics.

Phenylethylamine is believed to be the cause of many neuropsychiatric disorders. Too little of this substance is believed to cause depression, Parkinson’s disease and ADHD and too much of it is said to cause chronic paranoid schizophrenia and phenylketonuria. It serves as the body’s natural amphetamine as it causes euphoria and unexplained happiness. Since amphetamines have been considered the very first popularly used cognitive enhancers, it plays a key role in enhancing and retaining memory, intelligence, increase concentration and attention span.

PEA Phenlethylamine can be found in small amounts in the brain comparable to the naturally-occurring opiates. It may play a key role in the occurrence of migraine headaches and the phenomenon of aggression in certain individuals.

Jacqueline M. Faulkner

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