Dark Chocolate and migraines, some thoughts
Posted in: Opinion
There doesn't seem to be a lot of scientific agreement on a) whether chocolate causes migraines for most migraine sufferers, and b) for those that chocolatedoes cause migraines for, which compound or compounds is causing it. Some say it may be from the caffeine, tyramine, or phenylethylamine. Caffeine is definitely lowered in the bean during fermentation so a longer fermented bean could be better for you if this is the cause, but no one I know writes their fermentation length on their packaging, except perhaps Claudio Corallo. Caffeine would also probably be higher in "longer bred" varieties like Criollo, but this could be subjective.
tyramine and phenylethylamine are such minor compounds in chocolate that I don't think anyone has studied how they differ in different varieties, origins, or fermentation lengths, and tyramine is found in so many other common foods like cheese, raspberries, and red wine that it would be hard to blame chocolate for upping your intake of this compound.
One things is for sure, the higher the percentage of cocoa solids in a bar, the more of these compounds they will have, but going from cacao percentage written on the packaging to cocoa solids is usually quite a puzzle since percentage is a sum of the cocoa solids and cocoa butter. There are a few posts on The Chocolate Life about how to attempt do this. I'd suggest you make a rough estimate of the cocoa solids of the brands that cause you problems vs. the ones that don't at the same cocoa percentage, and see if there's any correlation with migraine-causing ability.
You may want to check these sources:
Cephalalgia.1997 Dec;17(8):855-62;A double-blind provocative study of chocolate as a trigger of headache.
Marcus DA,Scharff L,Turk D,Gourley LM.
Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol.2003 Sep;91(3):233-40;Intolerance to dietary biogenic amines: a review.
Jansen SC,van Dusseldorp M,Bottema KC,Dubois AE.
Bletter, N. and D. Daly. 2006. " Cacao and its relatives in South America: An overview of taxonomy, ecology, biogeography, chemistry, and ethnobotany" in Cameron L. McNeil ed. Chocolate in Mesoamerica: A Cultural History of Cacao, University Press of Florida.