Douglas Taren cropThe Aztecs called chocolate the food of the gods.  Today, mere mortals claim it as a feel-good food they can’t live without.

What is it about chocolate that creates pleasurable sensations and makes some people crave it? Can eating a chocolate a day keep the blues away?

To answer those questions, Douglas L. Taren, professor of Public Health and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Arizona, will discuss the complex properties of dark chocolate and its effects on brain metabolism next Wednesday (May 8) in an afternoon program at the Arizona Senior Academy.

The talk, which begins at 3:30 p.m., will be sweetened by a tasting of dark varietal chocolates with a cacao content of 68% and higher. Like wines, Taren says, varietal chocolates have distinctive flavor profiles and terroirs.

Taren’s field is international health with a focus on maternal and child nutrition. His interest in chocolate was sparked by Kristen Morris, a former graduate student of his, who discovered that chocolate cravings are more common in women than men. Although Morris didn’t care for chocolate herself, she was intrigued by how foods affect mood and decided to research the chemistry of chocolate for her master’s thesis, “Chocolate: Food or Drug?”  The short answer is it’s both. The urge to eat chocolate has similarities to alcohol or nicotine addiction.

Could chocolate help a smoker quit the habit? A new study underway at the university’s College of Public Health is exploring the possibility. People who call the ASHLine will be advised of the study by a “quit coach” and given the option to participate.

Submitted by Caroline Bates, Academy Village Volunteer

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Is Dark Chocolate Really Good For You?:May 2013
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