Chocolate is like drugs for your mouth and brain, but why?

Of all the foods we enjoy as humans, chocolate still ranks first. The intense feeling of the taste of cocoa makes us happy for a moment. But why is that really the case? Many studies have been conducted like this.

In an interview with Scientas, research leader Siavash Soltanahmadi states that chocolate does not only affect the substances in the brain and body. Even the experience in the mouth gives a blissful experience. But how does it work?

Chocolate is experienced as a resting point in the mouth

Anyone who has sunk their teeth into a chocolate bar can emphasize that it is a unique experience. The crumbling of candy in your mouth, even the sound it makes, is soothing. Soltanahmadi has an excellent explanation of this.

“It’s because of the soft, creamy and oily texture,” he says in his interview. “It gives a real pleasure experience. In addition to the texture, taste and aroma also contribute to this.”

Structure is extremely important

Many can agree that certain foods provide a pleasant or unpleasant experience. There are, for example, people who like caviar, but find the ‘splashing eggs’ unpleasant. And this certainly also applies to, for example, oysters, peanuts or legumes.

How we enjoy food in the mouth is therefore highly subjective. Still, chocolate is one step ahead. “Interesting interactions take place between the chocolate and saliva,” says Soltanahmadi.

chocolate science
brown sugar. (Image: Unsplash/Pablo Merchan Montes)

Chocolate isn’t exactly seen as a healthy, sweet snack, but he says this research could lead to a healthier alternative. “It is important to examine the processes in the mouth. This allows us to develop healthy chocolates without affecting the pleasant sensation.”

Artificial tongue put to work

The University of Leeds designed an artificial 3D tongue-like surface on which researchers performed various tests. For this they used a luxury brand of dark chocolate. They studied how surfaces and liquids affect each other, the friction between them and the interaction between saliva and the liquids in chocolate.

The charm of chocolate, it turns out, is the fact that the emulsion of the cocoa is ‘smeared’ out in the mouth. Both the chocolate and your own saliva contribute to this. The change from a hard case to a creamy form is experienced by many people as very pleasant.

As the chocolate melts, it removes a small layer on the tongue and coats it with the bar’s ingredients. Because a chocolate bar has a lot of oily fats, it provides a long-lasting pleasurable sensation, according to Soltanahmadi.

Taste chocolate
Can chocolate taste even better? (Image: Tamas Pap/Unsplash)

You don’t have to be a chocolate cutter

Soltanahmadi also states that you don’t have to eat huge amounts of chocolate to get this feeling either. “Whether a chocolate contains 5 or 50 percent fat, it will form droplets in the mouth that give the chocolate sensation,” he tells Scientias. “The location of the fat in the composition of chocolate is crucial, only the outermost layer of chocolate must contain fat. As a result, the remaining fat can be greatly reduced.”

According to the researcher, this research is essential to making healthy chocolate. “With the knowledge we now have about what happens in the mouth, we think we can make chocolate that has the same experience but is healthier.”

It should be clear that similar research can be pioneering for the development of other foods such as cheese, margarine and ice cream. But also, as previously mentioned, the texture sensation of, for example, caviar.

A large part of the taste experience lies in the structure at first bite. And if you can imitate that, then suddenly a lot of snacks are just as tasty, but much healthier.

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