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Chocolate: A Cause of Rapture and Rage
Chocolate: A Cause of Rapture and Rage

Chocolate: A Cause of Rapture and Rage

Chocolate can cause some to become angry/mad. Some, like me. Chocolate messes with my brain and with my gut. Glad I’ve known this for a while — but I wish I had discovered it much earlier in life. Thank goodness all I have to do is avoid the stuff. Then the world is a better place both for me and for everyone else.

This goes to show how we have to be observant, be inductive, make connections, reason, and use logic. Eternally, assiduously, rigorously, and passionately.

On HealthBoards.com, under the heading “anger and chocolate,” some people discussed how chocolate affected them.  Some have it bad, worse than I do.

One person said:

I find that chocolate causes me to have rage attacks.

Another said (note: I corrected his grammar for clarity):

My wife actually gets nervous now when she sees me eating chocolate. We have had major fights about it.

One guy in there has it bad. He is affected a lot worse than I am! Read it for yourself.

In “Chocolate: The Good, the Bad and the Angry” (Psychology Today, Nov 10, 2010) Gary L. Wenk Ph. D wrote:

For a small percentage of the population, eating chocolate can produce rage, paranoia and anger that occur without warning.

Chocolate contains phenethylamine (PEA), a molecule that resembles amphetamine and some of other psychoactive stimulants. When chocolate is eaten, PEA is rapidly metabolized by the enzyme MAO. Fifty percent of the PEA you consume in a chocolate bar is metabolized within only ten minutes. Thus very little PEA usually reaches the brain, thus contributing little or no appreciable psychoactive effect without the use of a drug that can inhibit MAO. Could this happen? Possibly yes. MAO levels are at their lowest level in premenstrual women, which is the time when women most crave the soothing effects of chocolate. In addition, chocolate also contains small amounts of the amino acid tyramine.

Tyramine can powerfully induce the release of adrenaline, increase blood pressure and heart rate and produce nausea and headaches. Usually, the nasty effects of tyramine are prevented because it too is metabolized by MAO. You can see the problem: the tyramine and PEA in chocolate may slow each other’s metabolism. The consequence is having both of these chemicals hang around too long in the body would be high blood pressure, a fast beating heart, heightened arousal, racing thoughts, anger, anxiety and rage. One rather controversial study claimed that inhibitors of MAO were able to increase PEA levels in the brain by 1000-fold! That’s a lot and the consequences of this actually happening could be lethal. However, the potential exists for some vulnerable people to experience significant shifts in mood after eating chocolates with high cocoa powder levels.

Psychology Today © 1991-2016 Sussex Publishers, LLC

I don’t know if that mechanism applies to me, but eating chocolate is sure not good for me or this world.

But we do not need to know the entire biochemical cause. We don’t need to wait for any deductive proof to grasp causality. I don’t have to wait for a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to know that, when jumping from a plane, parachutes are safe and healthy. I don’t have to wait for a double-blind, placebo-controlled, “gold standard” study to know that fish live in water.

Induction is prior to deduction. Experience and induction are what give us causality.

Whatever the causal mechanism, the fact remains: chocolate causes me to get angry or have a dysfunctional brain. The fact comes first, the explanation later.

No to chocolate! Yes to zinc!

Serenity comes from science.


  1. Jackie

    Your article is quite old now but has been a revelation. Thank you for railing against so many ‘studies’ which refute the possibility that chocolate can induce acute anger. I experienced this side effect myself, for many years, and finally had to stop (2 years ago). I recently ate chocolate, thinking I’d be ‘over it’ now….and it triggered exactly the same reaction….which maybe opens another line of query.
    Many thanks , anyway.

    1. Michael Gold

      How interesting! Glad you were insightful and attuned enough to see the chocolate-anger link in yourself. I wonder how many miss it or dismiss it.

      I was glad I caught that in myself, too. Makes life better for both me and other people and the world! 🙂

      We humans are complex: complex ecologies in a broader ecological world.

    2. Natalie

      I crave chocolate at night mostly wake during night go eat some chocolate anything chocolate then go back to sleep. Chocolate makes me very sleepy and if I can’t sleep it always does the trick but I need a lot of it to make me sleepy. BUT when I wake up I’m awfully frustrated, angry . No patience no get up n go, I literally can’t be around anyone without biting their heads off for everything and nothing. I hate myself. I’m definitely addicted to chocolate. In one sitting ( standing in dark kitchen at 2am) I will consume on average 5 heaped tbs chocolate spread or one whole pack of choc hobnobs or 3 snickers bars or big bar of Cadburys. It comes in phases when I’m not eating chocolate it’s other sweet things like jame tarts , biscuits iced buns but I need to eat till full to feel sleepy but don’t feel angry in morn more just like upset with myself for eating to much crap. There is definitely something in chocolate tho that effects my moods in a very negative way.

  2. Natascha Ma

    I’m so happy I came across this article. I always wonders why chocolate makes so SUPER ANGRY and aggressive. I used to drink Starbucks Mocha drinks all the time and like clockwork, I would be getting into a fight with my family or boyfriend. I was anxious, paranoid, and angry and it started to ruin my life. I sought therapy, took meds and don’t need any of it since being off chocolate. I also knew my body metabolizes things quickly so maybe that has something to do with it? I always knew I had quicker reaction times and a faster fight or flight than most people (which made me great in sports and anything active). I ate chocolate again this weekend, all weekend in fact, and I am so angry for NO reason. I woke up angry. There is definitely some correlation between chocolate and my moods for me – anyone who says it can’t be true does not know what they’re talking about. Sugar has been the hardest thing in life to quit but I have to do it again and hopefully will stay the F away from chocolate.

    1. Michael Gold

      Amen. Same here. Most people love chocolate and it hits their “happy wiring,” but it does the opposite for some of us! Glad I know to avoid it. As with you, the world is a better place for both me and other people when I avoid it! 🙂

  3. B

    I have read this article more times than I care to admit. Every time I slip up and try to eat chocolate again, and end up feeling horrible I end up here.

    Even 5-10 grams of cacao turns me into a worrisome angry irritable wreck of a human.

    I have studied the active chemicals, amino acids and biological amines to try to understand it but I am at a loss.

    I do well with other sources of MAO and PEA so I don’t think it’s that. From what I can tell that is why I am actually addicted to cacao is bc I need the dopamine boost, but something in it causes extreme irritability, so I end up in a loop of consuming and then quitting trying to balance some neurotransmitter.

    I truly believe there is something in cacao, yet undiscovered, that tiggers some mechanism in some people that causes this reaction.

    I am comt ++ which is a gene that helps break down catecholamines so that is something to look into for anyone also having this issue.

    The trick seems to be how to boost feel good dopamine without boosting its metabolites (epinephrine/adrenaline)

    1. Michael Gold

      Interesting. Another one of us.

      There could very well be more in chocolates than we know — we ain’t omniscient, and the scientific comnunity never has known it all, does not know it al, and never will. We probably have the same to learn about how the sun helps us and what chemicals besides Vitamin D (really a hormone) that might be photosynthesized.

      And, while we are all exactly the same, precisely, there are ranges across numerous dimensions in that sameness. We all differ in where exactly we are in each range of each dimension.

      Then there’s our complex, dynamic, feedback-system nature.

      And our epigenetics. (Speaking of which, I just found this: “Childhood Trauma and COMT Genotype Interact to Increase Hippocampal Activation in Resilient Individuals”)

      So some things, like autism, will have different causes and effects for different people.

      This chocolate thing could be something similar.

      I am wondering if my having been (or still being, if that is the case) autistic is relevant. I was never tested for autism, but I think I sure the heck had something like it, if not autism itself.

      Interesting idea you have about the comt ++. Good question. Especially as different forms are found in brain, liver, kidney, and blood, as they say at https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/gene/comt/:

      “The COMT gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called catechol-O-methyltransferase. Two versions of this enzyme are made from the gene. The longer form, called membrane-bound catechol-O-methyltransferase (MB-COMT), is chiefly produced by nerve cells in the brain. Other tissues, including the liver, kidneys, and blood, produce a shorter form of the enzyme called soluble catechol-O-methyltransferase (S-COMT). This form of the enzyme helps control the levels of certain hormones.
      “In the brain, catechol-O-methyltransferase helps break down certain chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These chemicals conduct signals from one nerve cell to another. Catechol-O-methyltransferase is particularly important in an area at the front of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which organizes and coordinates information from other parts of the brain. This region is involved with personality, planning, inhibition of behaviors, abstract thinking, emotion, and working (short-term) memory. To function efficiently, the prefrontal cortex requires signaling by neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Catechol-O-methyltransferase helps maintain appropriate levels of these neurotransmitters in this part of the brain.”

      You say “I do well with other sources of MAO.” In what foods/sources do you get MAOs?

      Interesting ideas and commentary. Thanks.

  4. Juliet

    Wow, glad I came across this article! I have been suspectitng that I have a problematic relationship with this most favorite food of mine but I couldn’t admit that my rage outbursts can actually be caused by chocolate. Years ago, I used to be able to eat 1/2 of 85% percent dark bars dayly with no issues as I felt like my body was craving it. With time, I think it turned into a habit or rather an addiction and I couldn’t last a couple of days without it. Now I am thinking I just damaged my brain neurons or messed up my brain’s chemical balance. So I made a decision to avoid it and my extreme mood swings are gone. No matter how long I’d give it a break in the past, once I surrendered, the bad symptoms would come back.
    Just wondering how long it actually would take for people here (sensitive to cocao) to start feeling the anger and rage? I could be totally fine and in a better mood after eating it in the morning and get sudden outbursts for no reason in the evening. Oh well, knowlege is power and the willpower is often a lifesaver. Thanks for the article and the comments!

    1. Michael Gold

      Good question. I’m not sure how long it’d take to affect me. When I was eating more chocolate, I had recently given up coffee, was making dietary changes, and was somewhat sleep deprived. I.e., other factors were involved. But sometimes when I’d eat chocolate, my gut would complain immediately with growling noises, noises so loud other people could hear them! Strange, interesting stuff.

      As you say, “knowledge is power,” when we have the will to use it. Amen.

    2. Shelley

      Hi! I am shocked at how nasty I was to my family last night. Thinking about it this morning, I remember that I had been using chocolate to stop my cough at night (thanks to theobromine). I have had a very bad cold. My night-time chocolate eating had stopped 2 nights ago. Last night, having gone to bed early, I woke at 12:30. My family was still up watching a movie (late Saturday night), I was really nasty to them…like some sorta Stranger Things monster. This morning, I am taking thought. Apologies to hand out… 😟
      So last night would’ve been the third “day.”

  5. Bridget

    I find this as well. Every time onconsume chocolate it has one of two effects. Either I immediately became irritated OR i succombe to 3 days of depression. I once found another site where many many people also said that chocolate made them depressed too. And also many stated it was for 3 days too! Not found it since. Anyway – because I don’t want to upset those around me I made up my mind never to take chocolate again. It’s the only way to keep irritation free. Thanks for the article – it’s very helpful to know the reason why chocolate setsnupnirritstion (and sometimes depression)

  6. Nicki

    Great comments here. I thought I’d leave my experiences for the record. Despite my genes being quite good, I do have COMT issues. I used to have Chronic fatigue syndrome CFS (it took me 2.5 years to recover from). I also have been diagnosed with Pyroluria and I highly suspect I’m on the spectrum (Pyroluria linked with autism by the fact that both of these disorders can have a zinc definciency). To be able to function from CFS I used to have at least 1/2 a whole bar of organic dark 70% chocolate for energy. I did that for years. Maybe there’s something there with the copper also? I have a suspicion that the copper from the dark chocolate built up in the soft tissues and without taking zinc for such a long time, perhaps that extra high copper food tips us over the edge.

    I’ve found that I only get anger/rage from chocolate if I have _organic_ chocolate these days. If I go to my local chocolate store that has whatever chcocolate powder for a hot chocolate, I feel great happy, no mood swings. This morning I tried my new organic hot chocolate powder – 10 minutes later I felt like punching a wall. This mood swing happens if I have a bar of organic chocolate these days too.

    My partner used to ban me from having chocolate, I don’t think I was so self aware as I am now that there is such a strong causation to anger, I’m definitely aware of it now. These comments have reassured me that I’m not along in this strange reaction! Great article, cheers

    1. Michael Gold

      Interesting. Glad you IDed the issue! Sweet.

      I think I was autistic spectrum. Interesting you should mention that. I have mostly “cured” it or put it in remission through things I stumbled on by accident: dietary and fitness factors. Autism, being epigenetic, I think, and hence being a spectrum, will have various causes and co-causes and will exhibit in various ways. So my “cures” and conditions won’t be the exact same as for someone else.

      But I’ve found zinc important, too. I take a good-quality zinc supplement every day, and it definitely helps.

      Dark chocolate would mess with me (I did not even like milk chocolate, so did not eat it). Sometimes, I’d eat it, years ago, and my gut would immediately start complaining: it would start making noises that others could even hear! And, yeah, there’d also be the effects on my emotions.

      I gave it up for a long time, but have tried dark chocolate in little bits now and then, and I’ve been OK. I find that when it’s some chocolate thing with coconut oil in it, I’m better off.

  7. Ruth

    I am glad it is not just me. I can eat milk chocolate in moderation, but if I eat the 70% chocolate or too much semi-sweet, I will become enraged. It is well known in my family. The explanation in the article makes sense. I am not the only family member who is sensitive to chemicals. Just my luck that it has to do with my favourite treat.

    1. Michael Gold

      Good you got the cause pinned. It’s nice to know it’s something other than ourselves sometimes; there’s an explanation and a cause. It ain’t us that’s the problem. 🙂 What a relief!

      But, yeah, too bad it’s gotta be the family treat!

    2. Shelley

      Interesting. I think that I can consume some milk chocolate, too. But, dark chocolate is NOT a good idea. I really love chocolate… everything about it. It’s my favorite sweet thing. I also try chocolate flavored things, like Cheerios, and I think some is okay for me….
      For so long, it didn’t make sense and I had never heard of anyone else with this reaction.

  8. Brandon

    I have recently pinpointed my inexplicable rages to chocolate as well. It seems to have gotten worse these last couple of years (age 35), but looking back I think I’ve been affected by it for at least 15 years.

    For me, it can hit very quickly (10-20 min). It does not take hours to set in. My head starts swimming and I start getting triggered by every little thing. Everything feels like an attack – something my fight-or-flight needs to defend against. Dealing with 3 kids during this time always results in hurt feelings, which is what has prompted enough introspection to find the cause.

    I had it narrowed down to either chocolate or sugar, as I loved to snack on a dessert every day after dinner, and the rages would soon follow. I had already cut out sweets from my lunch because of the obvious correlation between those and my poor behavior towards others at work. But recently I had an ultra-dark chocolatey snack with 1 g sugar, no other sugar, and my head was swimming just as bad as ever.

    My only known physical issue is mild hypo-glycemia, not bad enough for any medication. I’m physically fit enough. The autism angle is an interesting one. I do tend towards autism in some respects for sure, although not severe. I would have guessed this is a gut micro-biome thing, where maybe I’m lacking some of the good-ol’ microbes which help to metabolize PEA or whatever the underlying cause of this may be.

    I do not get headaches from chocolate. I consume very minimal caffeine, but it sounds like there are coffee drinkers here which are not affected by that, so I’d suspect something else. Good luck in your journey. Hopefully you can recognize if you have this reaction to chocolate faster than I did.

  9. Me too, I’ve known for a while (years), but I forget or disbelieve after time goes by and ingest again. It’s kind of like I am very addicted and have a quick and fierce (and scary) detox reaction and I know I need to buckle down and ride through it or eat more (but a lot more) to keep the reaction at bay. i am just coming off of a terrible weekend and trying to find the science behind this. Science is not so easy to find on the internet these days. I found an article that I can pay $38 to read for two days! I really appreciate hearin other people’s experiences though. That helps me get to: yes, it’s the chocolate, because otherwise, yes, I’m still like, no, seriously, I hope it’s not the chocolate that did that to me!

  10. James

    I only found this out about myself recently. My wife buys me chocolates for bdays, Vday, or anniversaries. I eat the chocolate and a few hours later I want her to pack her shit and git. Seriously, its a real Dr jeckyll and Mr Hyde thing. It never fails. Then the next day I feel like a pile of shit for doing and saying fucked up things, and am so thankful that she still wakes up next to me. So I looked it up finally and found the answer. No more chocolate for me. EVER. This year we celebrate 30 years, unless I eat a piece of chocolate.

    1. Michael Gold

      Hahaha LOL. Amen. But I understand and sympathize. Me, too: been there, done that.

      Glad you IDed this yourself. But that’s what we usually have to do with some things, don’t we?

      Congrats on the 30 years!

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