The Aztecs may have been the first on record to draw a link between the cocoa bean and sexual desire: the emperor Montezuma was said to consume the bean in copious amounts to fuel his romantic trysts.
Nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love.
But most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none.
The most recent study, published in May in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The researchers, from Italy, studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none.
The study relied on self-reports. But it reflected what many researchers believe: if chocolate has any aphrodisiac qualities, they are probably psychological, not physiological.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Research suggests that chocolate’s aphrodisiac properties, if any, are limited.
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
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