FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Science for Kids | October 30, 2007

The tummy talks: Why some people love chocolate

Through the lips. Past the gums. Look out stomach. Here it comes!

Some stomachs simply can’t get enough of one sweet treat — chocolate. Those tummies belong to extreme chocolate lovers who eat most of the 3 billion pounds of chocolate that passes through lips and gums in the United States each year. Other people really don’t care much for chocolate.

Scientists now report discovering why some people are chocoholics and others are not. In a new study in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Proteome Research, a magazine for scientists, scientists report that the craving for chocolate comes right from the stomach. Actually, the love for chocolate comes from bacteria, microscopic organisms that live in the stomach.

Everyone has bacteria in their stomach. Unlike the harmful bacteria that cause diseases, these stomach bacteria are good microbes that help digest food. Dr. Sunil Kochhar, a scientist who studies chocolate at the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, studied the stomach bacteria of 11 people who liked chocolate and 11 others who didn’t. He found that the bacteria in the stomachs of chocolate lovers were different than those found in people who did not care much for chocolate. Dr. Kochhar suspects that those bacteria may be the source of that urge to eat chocolate by releasing chemicals that make chocolate appealing.

Dr. Kochhar also says that the same stomach bacteria that make people crave chocolate might also help explain why people have cravings for other types of food. He thinks that more research on the topic could help people choose healthier diets.

The American Chemical Society — the world’s largest scientific society — is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

— Mark T. Sampson