The Joys of the CHUMP Study

Chocolate

Everyone is constantly looking for ways to make themselves, their families and their friends happier. There has been extensive research on what makes us happy and my personal favourite, and one I continue to put to the test on a weekly, if not daily basis, is the CHUMP study. Heard of it? Well, let me enlighten you. This ‘clinical trial’ was titled Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness study and published in 2007 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. No, it’s not as catchy as CHUMP. In fact, it doesn’t really make sense at all. Nor did the results, to be fair, because it was all a hoax by Kevin Chan trying to prove a point unrelated to chocolate and all about the difficulties scientists come across when conducting a blinded clinical trial.

Despite the fact that the results were scientifically irrelevant, I am nevertheless going to talk you through the alleged trial and findings because it rather perfectly illustrates my point. Doctor Chan created three groups. One group received a bar of dark chocolate every day, one received a bar of milk chocolate and one received no chocolate at all (but were allowed to continue their regular chocolate-eating habits). I know what group I’d want to be in. Which was effectively where the paper claims the research went wrong. People began to switch groups according to their tastes so once everyone was in their ideal group, the happiness results throughout the groups returned largely the same. Proving … well, that randomized controlled trials are incredibly hard, which was the point Kevin Chan appears to have been making.

But, despite the fabricated CHUMP study, it is still theoretically possible to say that chocolate makes us happy. Or at least, we get pleasure from the foods we enjoy. Which, for many of us, includes chocolate. I have written in the past about how food can make us happy so this blog looks specifically at what chocolate contains which can be linked to happiness.

There are many chemicals and substances present in chocolate which are linked to feelings of happiness. These include:

  • Phenylethylamine – aka the love drug with a similar structure to amphetamine which released noradrenaline and dopamine. When combined with dopamine, it also acts as an antidepressant.
  • Cannabinoid-like fatty acids – releases dopamine into our brains.
  • Tryptophan – an amino acid which stimulates the release of serotonin.
  • Caffeine – linked to reducing depression.
  • Theobromine – this combines with the caffeine and has a mild effect on our brains not unlike the high felt when smoking cannabis.
  • Flavonoids – antioxidants and anti-inflammatories as well as improving memory and brain activity (in adults over 50).

Finally, who doesn’t like to eat something their taste buds respond positively to? There are so many different flavours of chocolate available now and in countless forms that surely everyone is able to find some kind off chocolate they like. The CHUMP study might not have been real but the fact that many of us feel happier not only when eating something as delicious as chocolate but also when the chocolate triggers the above reactions in our brains is undeniable.

As a side note, I would just like to mention how many genuine articles I came across online citing the findings of the CHUMP study as completely credible and always in favour of the chocolate companies. In today’s world, with the media increasingly in the spotlight and accusations of ‘fake news’ flying around, this both surprised and worried me. Doctor Kevin Chan signs off on the CHUMP study saying “For anyone who takes these data and analyses seriously, I also have some Florida swampland for sale.” The three-page article also claims to have been approved by the Chocolate Consumption Study research ethics board and there are various other jokes within the text. Anyone who took the five minutes to read the study would have known it was gibberish. Evidently, there is an increasing amount of regurgitated content creation flooding our Internet. Basically, be careful what you believe online. Except everything you read on More Good Deeds. These articles are actually researched. If anyone wants a laugh, here’s the link to the CHUMP Study. Go and get yourself a bar of chocolate and sit down for a fun-filled read. Even articles about chocolate make us happy!

Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.