This Wednesday, the class visited the Musee du Chocolat; it felt strange to know that there was a commercial museum for chocolate in France when the cocoa bean is ultimately an imported good. As a result of this incongruency, I frankly felt skeptical about the whole museum experience… This may also be because I am not a very big fan of sweets.
The first half of the experience was spent “making” our own chocolate. We were given bowls of melted chocolate and chocolate-filled piping bags to dip and decorate marshmallows and chocolate bars. Most of my time was spent eating the ingredients on the side (the hazelnuts in particular). We had a personal chocolatier guide who showed us demonstrations in design that were awe-inspiring (he made it look so easy).
Personally, I never seek out chocolate or buy it on my own, but I do not mind eating it if it is offered. Thus, it was interesting to think through the potential health rammifications of eating it for substances such as methylxanthines or theobromine that are naturally present in coffee. After the visit, I had to do a lot more reading on my own to learn what these compounds could do to our brain–especially after our NBB 471 class today about “cognitive enhancements.”
Here are some basic citations about substances in coffee that helped me get up to speed:
… “methylxanthines are also known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, mediate changes in lipid homeostasis and have neuroprotective effects”
<REFERENCES are also included at the end>
“Theobromine is used principally to make caffeine (McCutheon, 1969). Formerly, theobromine and its derivatives were used in diuretics, myocardial stimulants, vasodilators and smooth muscle relaxants (Windholz, 1983).”
With this in mind, perhaps it could be a good practice to start eating more chocolate as a pseudo-vitamin. In relation to the class discussion of cognitive enhancement, it is interesting to imagine a world where we, collectively, realize the benefit of chocolate similar to the way we have commodified coffee. Even today, there are commercial products that claim to extract these compounds for a more measured, direct consumption. But perhaps chocolate is only desirable for the fact that it can be unhealthy–the existence of a limit may very well be the incentive for its consumption.
Although you have to do a little deeper reading to understand the long term effects of substances like chocolate, I thought it was interesting to compare chocolate and cigarettes in this sense. In relation to societies, both French and Korean cultures see a higher prevalance of smoking than in the US, and both see higher life expectancies. Similarly, it is interesting to ponder the possible health benefits of chocolate on life expectancies–a relationship that may be unexpected because most people see chocolate as unhealthy.
The most scientific article (outside of editorials) investigated chocolate’s effect on the fruit fly’s life span.
“… results illustrate that a moderate supplementation of cocoa under normoxia increases the average life span, whereas, at higher concentrations, average life span is normal.”
Personally, I will not be eating much chocolate on my own out of preference, but if you do happen to up your chocolate intake, you should consider conducting a research study on this and let me know if you find anything 🙂