Chocolate in pill-form could soon be a thing
It was the news to which chocoholics such as myself all raised a block of Cadbury’s in celebration upon hearing — chocolate is good for you. So of course, they’ve turned it into a pill. Because all good things will eventually come in pill-form apparently.
To put this fascinating venture into perspective, back in 2015, scientists discovered that the odd bit of dark chocolate (and by “odd bit” I know they meant to say “entire block”) could potentially cause lower instances of cardiovascular disease and strokes.
Published in online journal Heart, the study found that “higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events”. Which was awesome news. Finally, we could guilt-free gorge on delicious dark goodness while telling people it was good for us. (Yes, I am deliberately ignoring the words “in moderation”.)
But because science is determined to suck all the joy out of the world, some smart cookie came up with idea to cut out the middle man (chocolate) altogether and instead give the body the healthy bits (cocoa) sans all the yummy bits (fat and sugar).
The unfortunate reality is, despite dark chocolate having potential positive effects on heart health, all the other stuff that goes into making it is still bad for you. You may have improved vascular health and blood flow, but you still risk the chance of gaining unhealthy amounts of weight.
Which is where the alleged choco-pill comes in.
Still in its blueprint phase, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, are now recruiting volunteers to take part in a controlled study nicknamed COSMOS, otherwise known as Cocoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study.
The 18,000 men and women chosen to take part in COSMOS will be required to take three cocoa supplement pills every day for the next four years. Researchers are hoping to learn if cocoa supplement tablets will have the same vascular health benefits that the odd bit (read: block) of dark chocolate has.
They’re just forgetting one. Big. Thing. One of chocolate’s biggest benefits is the pleasure we get from eating it.
Part of the reason that chocolate is so deliciously addictive is because it triggers a series of reactions in the brain that make us feel good.
Back in 2002, scientists from Cambridge University found that it was as much the taste and act of eating chocolate that provided sensations of euphoria as it was the trace amounts of tryptophan (an amino acid that helps release serotonin in the brain) and phenylethylalanine (which is just a fancy schmancy word for a compound that stimulates feelings of falling in love).
While some suffering sod chowed down on some cocoa-laden treats, the researchers scanned their brain to see what took place. What they found was that the part of the brain that became most active during a choc-binge was the orbifrontal cortex, aka the reward centre in the brain.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Cambridge neuroscientist Dr Adrian Owen said “the data suggests that the mood-enhancing effects of chocolate are not pharmacological – the constituents of chocolate do not appear to affect the brain via a direct biological action.
“An alternative explanation is that the effects of eating chocolate are psychological — the unique combination of aroma, texture and taste makes eating chocolate a pleasurable experience that stimulates the emotional ‘feel-good’ centres of the brain. In short, the chocolate tastes good, so we feel good.”
So in other words — while we soon may be able take chocolate in pill form, reaping all the benefits of cocoa, the sad truth is it won’t make us happy.
And don’t we deserve to be happy?
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