Love, Diamonds and Chocolates on Valentine’s Day

"Lovers walking" along the waterfront near Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
"Lovers walking" along the waterfront near Belem Tower, Lisbon, Portugal. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Christmas is over. New year’s celebrations are over. Business has slowed down. Now comes Valentine’s Day. That should energize people again. It’s time to buy chocolates, diamonds and go out for a romantic dinner. What happens after that is anybody’s guess.

Saint Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is observed on February 14 each year.

St. Valentine’s Day began as a celebration after the names of early Christian saints named Valentinus. According to Wikipedia, the day was first associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Now we are into 21st century. The tradition goes on. The association of Valentine’s Day with love and affection is immense. We need that in this troubled world. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, says Ryan O’Neal’s character at the end of the movie “Love Story.”

That brings me to the association of chocolate and diamonds with Valentine’s Day. I don’t know how that happened. But we know one thing – chocolates and diamonds are a woman’s best friends. Is that healthy? Well, diamonds don’t hurt anybody. But chocolates – depends what kind of chocolate you eat.

We have been eating chocolates for a long time. The earliest evidence of use traces to the Mokaya (Mexico and Guatemala), with evidence of chocolate beverages dating back to 1900 BC.

An average North American consumes about five to six kilograms of chocolate a year. Did you know 40 per cent of world’s almonds, 20 per cent of world’s peanuts and eight per cent of world’s sugar is used by chocolate manufacturers? No wonder too much chocolate is fattening.

There are three varieties of chocolates: dark, milk and white chocolate. Chocolate liquor is the main ingredient in dark and milk chocolate and white chocolate has no chocolate liquor.

Many studies have suggested moderate intake of chocolate (especially dark chocolate) is good for our heart and vascular system. This is surprising because chocolate contains about 30 per cent saturated fat. Saturated fat is known to raise bad cholesterol level. But chocolate has saturated fat, which is poorly absorbed in the intestine. That is good news for chocolate lovers. Chocolate can also improve blood flow and reduces blood pressure.

Besides being fattening, chocolate can cause dental caries. What about chocolate addiction, chocolate acne and chocolate migraine? There isn’t much scientific evidence to prove any of that. So once in awhile you can enjoy your chocolate.

Remember, there are two food groups: chocolate and fruit. If it is fruit, it should be dipped in chocolate. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. Make love, not war.

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Valentine’s Day for Love, Roses, Chocolates and…may be Diamonds

Valentines gifts with chocolates. (Hemera)
Valentines gifts with chocolates. (Hemera)

Make love, not war.

If there is love, there is peace.

When you think about love, you think about peace, happiness and tranquility. But, as we all know, love is not as simple as we think. Turn on the news and there isn’t much love out there.

Sometime ago, I saw a movie called “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” It is a 2011 romantic comedy-drama film with Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and others. It is a pretty complicated story involving many characters. In the end, you wonder what was it all about. It must have been about crazy, stupid, love. Yes, it was about crazy, stupid, love.

Next movie which comes to my mind is “Love Story.” It is a 1970 romantic drama starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw. I remember the movie as real tearjerker. The film, well known as a tragedy, is considered one of the most romantic of all time by the American Film Institute. How can a love story be a tearjerker, a tragedy and most romantic? The word “oxymoron” comes to my mind. Yes, the movie was about love and sacrifice.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”, says Ryan O’Neal’s character at the end of the movie. What does that really mean? Well, true love is unconditional. True love is transparent. True love means we accept and understand and allow our loved one to make mistakes, falter and stumble. True love means we offer them genuine compassion when they are trying their best. Although, we may think their best has to be even “better.”

Patience, is a great virtue, when you love someone. To me, that really sums it up. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Valentine’s Day is a good day to reassure our loved ones that what counts most in the world is love and without that there is no happiness. Diamonds, roses and chocolates may provide some competition but love trumps them all.

That brings me to “chocolate theory of love.” You have to be a chemist to understand that. I will try to simplify it. I confess, I am not a chemist but I do love my dark chocolates.

In the early 1980s, researcher Michael Liebowitz, author of the popular 1983 book The Chemistry of Love, remarked to reporters that “chocolate is loaded with PEA.” This became the focus for an article in The New York Times, many magazines and wire services. It came to be known as “chocolate theory of love.”

PEA stands for phenylethylamine or phenethylamine. It is also the name of a class of chemicals with many members well known for psychoactive drug and stimulant effects.

Aside from PEA, there are many other ingredients in chocolates which cause chocolate craving, fight depression and anxiety, and increase energy and stamina among high performance athletes. PEA like amphetamine, is responsible for releasing the hormones dopamine and nor-epinephrine in the brain, making a person feel elated and uplifted.

Is it an aphrodisiac? You will have to find that out for yourself. See if the “chocolate theory of love” is true. But, remember, it is good for your heart and brain. Enjoy.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

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Love, Chocolates and Red Roses for Valentine’s Day

In a few days it is going to be Valentine’s Day. Millions of people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing appreciation for the people they love and admire.

Some people celebrate the day by taking their loved ones for a romantic dinner. Others may choose this day to propose or get married. Many people give greeting cards, chocolates, jewellery or flowers, particularly roses, to their partners or admirers on Valentine’s Day.

There are many reasons why people get married. Marriage is a traditional institution that is celebrated all over the world.  Cultures, societies and religions put direct or indirect pressure on individuals to find partners, get married and have children. Many individuals find partners because they fall in love or are looking for companionship.

Falling in love and getting married can be easy. But staying married is hard. Staying happily married is even harder. Many young people have romantic ideas about marriage but they do not understand the realities of married life.

If you are in love and are planning to get married on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year (what the heck – I married on April Fool’s Day) then you should read an interesting article in Scientific American Mind (January 2010 Issue) titled Fall in Love and Stay That Way.

According to the article, about half of first marriages fail in the U.S., as do two thirds of second marriages and three quarters of third marriages. We fail in large part because we enter into relationships with poor skills for maintaining them and highly unrealistic expectations. We also tend to pick unsuitable partners, mistakenly believing that we are in love simply because we feel physical attraction.

This combination of factors sets us up for failure. Often within 18 months the fog of passion disappears. And we ask ourselves: How can I make the marriage a success? The chances of that happening is limited if you start out with the wrong person and both of you lack basic tools for resolving conflicts and communicating.

The author of the article, Dr. Robert Epstein, holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University and believes that there is a definite fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships. He says there are at least 80 scientific studies to help reveal how people learn to love each other.

Studies have shown that Soul Gazing exercise produced rapid increases in feelings of both liking and loving in total strangers. Exercise involves mutual eye gazing (but not gazing at hands). It is like staring, but with an important difference – it is mutual and is not perceived as a threat. Staring at each other with mutual consent implies that you are being vulnerable to each other, and that is the key element in emotional bonding, says Dr. Epstein.

This is like Stockholm syndrome where hostages sometimes develop strong attachments to their captors. Signs of vulnerability in an animal or another person bring out tendencies in many people to provide care and protection – to be drawn to that being and to like or even love him or her.

Dr. Epstein says, “A study of arranged marriages in which love has grown over time hints that commitment, communication, accommodation and vulnerability are key components of a successful relationship. Other research indicates that sharing adventures, secrets, personal space and jokes can also build intimacy and love with your partner.” Staying married cannot be taken for granted.

So, what is it going to be on Valentine’s Day? In my case, it is going to be mutual eye gazing (may be for 60 seconds to start with), red roses for her and chocolates for me – those dark yummy chocolates for my Valentine heart. What about you?

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!