Can't stop eating chocolate? Try the water cure

Posted Oct 18, 2009 by Maaja Wentz
Scientists have discovered a link between eating chocolate and pain relief. Prior studies have shown that eating sweet things will dull the effects of pain but this study by the University of Chicago shows water can have the same effect.
A bunch of various chocolates
M.Verkerk, J.J.G.Claessens
The Calgary Herald reports on a new study linking eating chocolate and drinking water with pain relief. University of Chicago neurology professor Peggy Mason and neurobiology research associate Hayley Foo conducted rat studies using a light bulb to create heat. Normally, when the bulb was lit, the rats would lift their paws in response to pain. This study showed rats were slower to respond when they were eating a chocolate chip or drinking sweet or plain water.
This natural form of pain relief helps animals consume enough calories to survive. "Nature provided for it being difficult to stop eating by making food scarce, particularly energy-dense, high-fat, high-calorie food. But in the modern world, we've completely messed that up," said Mason.
The study authors draw a direct link between their animal study and problems of overeating in humans where food is plentiful. "The cheapest thing you can get is energy-dense food and once it's readily available and you've got it nearby, you're going to eat it and you're not going to stop... because it's a brain-stem-mediated effect," according to Mason.
Science Daily reporting on the same study, pointed up a positive side to the findings. When researchers tested the rats using quinine, the bitter flavouring used in tonic water, there was no pain-dulling effect, but any pleasurable flavour can be used. They recommended doctors offer patients water, not lollypops, to get the same helpful effect without the calories.
The positive affects of eating or drinking have "nothing to do with calories," Mason said. "Water has no calories, saccharine has no sugar, but both have the same effect as a chocolate chip. It's really shocking."