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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Food of the Gods

I know that I said I would continue our discussion about sweeteners, but with Valentine's Day, I just couldn't resist sliding in the topic of chocolate. The scientific name for the tree from which chocolate is derived, Theobroma cacao, translated from Greek, means “food of the gods” and we certainly give chocolate the royal treatment this time of year! So if you will allow me a moment of folly, I would like to share with you the results of a recent study about chocolate.

Most people know someone who can't get enough chocolate; they would describe themselves as needing (not just craving) chocolate, and this new study may just give them the evidence they need to back up that claim. The Nestle Research Center in Switzerland paid for a study (they didn't conduct it themselves) about why some people crave chocolate and others are ambivalent about it. Here's what they found - it has to do with the microbes in your gut. Yep, the bacteria that live in your intestines play a role in whether or not you "need" chocolate. You see, they found that those who crave chocolate and those who are indifferent to it, have different colonies of microbes that inhabit their intestines.

The byproducts of metabolism found in the blood and urine of the test subjects showed a dozen different substances were significantly different between the two groups. The amino acid glycine was higher in those who craved chocolate, while taurine was higher in those who weren't big chocolate fans. And, just in case you needed an excuse for that chocolate binge - the chocolate cravers had lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels!

What they still need to determine is if the natural bacteria are the cause of the cravings or a product of them (the which came first dilema). They know that the flora of the two groups are different, but they don't know why. But we can now proclaim that we don't just want chocolate, but that we "need" it! And it should help alleviate some of the guilt associated with chocolate cravings that both men and women feel. I'm not giving you carte blanche to eat all the chocolate you want for Valentine's Day, but I am saying that is isn't just all in your head - your body really does "want" it so enjoy the treats and have a very sweet Valentine's Day!! I will go back to our topic of sweeteners, so come back to learn about our next one - Aspartame!

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