Ask Harley


Why do women like chocolate so much?

To start, chocolate — a confection made from ground, roasted beans of the cacao tree — is usually sweet, and sugar stimulates people, at least temporarily. Still, many women have an attachment to chocolate that goes well beyond a transient sugar rush. Indeed, some women find chocolate to be as close to an aphrodisiac as exists on planet Earth.

Chocolate is known to raise levels of serotonin, an important brain chemical that effects one's mood. Some women develop a special craving for chocolate during their menstrual period, when their hormone levels are in flux. Still, there is no reliable scientific evidence to indicate that chocolate has any special effect on women. For example, the level of serotonin is also raised by foods that are high in carbohydrates. (Interestingly enough, some studies show a substantial decrease in chocolate cravings among postmenopausal women. However, an informal survey indicates that this is not true for the postmenopausal women in my life.)

The reality of chocolate is that, while it probably has a biochemical effect on some women, its magic is most likely one part sugar, one part serotonin, and six parts habit and expectation. As one of my more feminine researchers put it, chocolate works because "it tastes so dang wunnerful."

From a male point of view, the important thing about chocolate is not so much how it works its magic, but that it does indeed work. (It's amazing how long it can take some men to figure this out.)