Easter Wrap: A Chocolate (story) feast

Easter weekends are often filled with chocolate, and there is always more to go around. Here are some of our favourite chocolate stories from our vault.

Chocolate domesticated earlier than thought

Study shows use in Ecuador 1500 years before Central America.

Chocolate, long recognised as a critical cultural artefact in early Central American cultures, may in fact have been domesticated 1500 years earlier than thought, and significantly further south.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, a team of researchers led by archaeologist Michael Blake of the University of Calgary in Canada present three lines of evidence they say points to the cultivation of cacao (Theobroma cacao), the plant from which chocolate is derived, in the Santa Ana-La Florida region in south-east Ecuador at least 5450 years ago. That’s a millennium and a half before its earliest known occurrence in pre-Columbian Meso-America.

Thank hybrid yeast for your chocolate feast

Study found local yeast is behind the diversity of flavours.

When you’re devouring the first of your chocolate eggs this weekend, consider how their beans’ country of origin may have affected their deliciousness.

A new study, released just in time for this seasonal tradition, offers us sweet-tooths a reason for the taste differences among chocolate and coffee from around the world.

The finding points to the diverse genetics of the yeast that helps ferment cacao and coffee beans. Different types of yeast can be geographically based, and humans have played a big part in this diversification.

Candy company finds chocolate is good for you

Research suggests benefits from two compounds in cocoa.

Compounds naturally occurring in chocolate can help boost heart health, says research backed by candy giant Mars, Inc.

A new study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, finds that flavanols found in cocoa improves blood vessel function, blood pressure, and arterial stiffness in healthy male adults, while another compound, known as procyandin, only affects cholesterol.

No evidence to support a health claim for cocoa

A review of previous studies reveals inconsistent outcomes.

The evidence that chocolate and other cocoa-containing products reduce high blood pressure is not strong enough to warrant an official health claim, a team of Canadian researchers has found.

Research has shown that flavanols – phytochemicals comprising epicatechin, catechin and procyandins – can reduce blood pressure by increasing levels of nitric oxide. However, critical issues such as dosage and long-term effects remain uncertain, matters complicated by wildly divergent experimental protocols and, in some cases, the involvement of vested interests in funding research.

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