Can Chocolate Give You Headaches?


Can Chocolate Give You Headaches?

 

Can Chocolate Give You Headaches?

What could be better than chocolate? Chocolate has been a favorite snack of many for thousands of years. Unfortunately, for some people a nice chocolate treat can result in an uncomfortable headache.

Cocoa beans come from a fruit tree, and it takes about 400 beans to make a single pound of chocolate. There are more than 600 flavor compounds in chocolate, which makes it a delicious treat. The chocolate we eat and love today was actually invented in 1847 and combined cocoa butter with sugar. But why does this amazing food cause headaches, and should you worry about eating chocolate?

Can chocolate trigger a headache?

There are some aspects of chocolate that can bring about a headache. Various chemicals and components of chocolate may be triggers for headaches, and chocolate can cause reactions in the body which may lead to pain. The possibility is slim, though, and there are some people who may be at a higher risk for this than others.

Phenylalanine and tyramine

If you love dark chocolate but frequently experience headaches, tyramine may be to blame. The chemical tyramine is found in dark chocolate, and it may trigger migraine headaches. In fact, people who suffer from migraines on a regular basis are more prone to experience headaches when eating chocolate. Diets with a high fat content, including fat from chocolate, can cause serious side effects for migraine patients.

Phenylalanine is another component found in chocolate that may trigger migraines. A study conducted by the University of California Nutrition Bytes found that migraine-prone subjects experienced migraines triggered by chocolate. While the results are not conclusive, there is a suspected connection between chocolate consumption and headaches, especially for people prone to migraines.

If you suspect chocolate may be triggering your migraines or headaches, keep a food log. This can help you track personal triggers that bring about your migraines. Write down the foods you eat and when to compare to the times you have migraines. You may also be able to handle chocolate in small quantities.

Too much caffeine

Taking in too much caffeine at a time can lead to headaches. Adults are recommended to take in no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. For people who experience caffeine-sensitivity or migraines, the caffeine content in chocolate may trigger a headache. About 22% of people who suffer from headaches identify chocolate as a trigger food for migraines.

It takes about 12 bars of chocolate to equal the caffeine in a cup of coffee. A serving of chocolate is not likely to be a problem for people with a normal tolerance for caffeine. However, if you regularly drink coffee or eat chocolate, you might actually suffer a headache when you do not eat chocolate.

Are there benefits to eating chocolate?

The possibility of suffering a headache from chocolate is relatively low. The highest risk for headaches is among people who are prone to migraines or sensitive to caffeine. It has also been theorized that migraines can bring about food cravings, causing people to reach for some chocolate. Chocolate may be a result of a migraine instead of the trigger.

Antioxidants

Chocolate can actually have some health benefits. Antioxidants can help your body fight off illnesses and free radicals that can lead to cell damage. There are more antioxidants per serving in cocoa powder than fruit. Chocolate is also a rich source of antioxidants and eating a small amount on a regular basis can help build up your body’s ability to fight of diseases.

Heart health

There are also flavanols in dark chocolate that can improve blood flow and lower your blood pressure. Flavanols can stimulate the lining of your arteries and produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide can relax your arteries to improve blood flow and blood pressure. The effect isn’t large, but some studies have found positive results.

Anti-inflammation

Chronic inflammation can be extremely painful and lead to cell damage. Dark chocolate can help reduce inflammation because it contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. For people who suffer from chronic inflammation from cancer, diabetes, arthritis, or other health conditions, 70-80% dark chocolate may be able to regulate your immune response and decrease inflammation slightly.

Brain function

As we age, our memory may suffer. However, drinking a couple cups of hot chocolate each day can help your brain stay healthy. Harvard Medical School also conducted research that suggests older people may benefit from drinking hot chocolate and experience reduced memory decline. 

According to a lab experiment, cocoa extract may be able to prevent damage to nerve pathways. This condition is commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients. Cocoa extract may be able to slow cognitive decline and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Fitness boost

Chocolate is frequently used by some athletes for a boost during exercise or recovery after a tough workout. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate during your fitness training may boost your oxygen availability. This can help reduce the amount of oxygen you use during your workout and improve your performance. Also, drinking chocolate milk after physical activity can help rebuild your muscles. Fat-free chocolate milk can help replenish glycogen which provides fuel to your muscles for future exercise.

Conclusion

There is a chance that chocolate can trigger headaches due to its chemical components and caffeine levels. However, the risk is typically high only for people who suffer from migraines or have a low sensitivity to caffeine. For many people, eating a small amount of dark chocolate each day may have some health benefits, and regular serving sizes of chocolate are not likely to bring about headaches. Chocolate can reduce inflammation, boost heart health by lowering blood pressure, help your muscles recover after a workout, and improve your brain function.