The internet is full of jokes about how chocolate is better than sex; Googling the question “Is chocolate better than sex?” yields an astonishing 74 million hits. Despite the ubiquity of references to the idea that chocolate might be a psychological substitute for sex for some people, there is almost no scientific research on this question.
A new study, now published in the open-access medical journal Cureus was aimed at changing that by investigating the link between chocolate-eating frequency and interest in sex. In the study, researchers Beatrice A. Golomb and Brinton K. Berg from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, assessed chocolate-consumption frequency and interest in sex in 723 Southern California men and women between the ages of 20 and 85 (Golomb & Berg, 2021).
The volunteers (559 men and 164 women) were asked to rate their interest in sex for the two weeks preceding the date of the test session on a scale between 0 (not present) and 10 (maximally present). Moreover, they were asked to rate their chocolate-eating frequency by answering the question "How many times a week do you consume chocolate?" In addition, the researchers assessed several variables that could influence the intake of chocolate or the interest in sex. These included mood, blood pressure, testosterone levels, and overall calorie intake. These variables were included in the analysis to make sure that the relationship between interest in sex and chocolate eating frequency was not confounded by them. For example, someone with a depressed mood might experience lower interest in sex, but higher chocolate-eating frequency due to emotional eating. Thus, controlling for these variables was important for reliable results.
What did the researchers find out?
Overall, men showed a significantly higher interest in sex (7.4 points out of 10) than women (5.7 points out of ten) — but women ate significantly more chocolate per week (2.5 times on average) than men (1.8 times on average).
The researchers then used the amount of chocolate consumed each week to predict interest in sex. They did not find any relationship between the two variables in men. However, women who ate chocolate more often reported significantly less interest in having sex.
Since this was a correlational study, it is not possible to infer a causal explanation from these data. While they could suggest that eating a lot of chocolate decreases interest in sex in women, other explanations are also possible. For example, women who have a personality disposition for low interest in sex could generally be more interested in chocolate for some reason. Thus, further research on this topic is needed before any final conclusions can be drawn.
Why is there a relationship between chocolate and sex?
While the biological link underlying this relationship is largely unclear, the authors of the paper suggest that eating chocolate might stimulate the production of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. As these chemicals are also involved in brain activity related to sex, the authors suggest chocolate might cause a satisfaction that could substitute for that sought from having sex. Whether this idea holds true needs to be investigated in further research.
Golomb B A, Berg B K (February 12, 2021) Chocolate Consumption and Sex-Interest. Cureus 13(2): e13310. doi:10.7759/cureus.13310