Livin' on the MDedge

Tastier chocolate may be healthier chocolate


Chocolate: Now part of a well-balanced diet

Asking if someone loves chocolate is like asking if they love breathing. It’s really not a question that needs to be asked. The thing with chocolate, however, is that most people who love chocolate actually love sugar, since your typical milk chocolate contains only about 30% cacao. The rest, of course, is sugar.

Now, dark chocolate is actually kind of good for you since it contains beneficial flavonoids and less sugar. But that healthiness comes at a cost: Dark chocolate is quite bitter, and gets more so as the cacao content rises, to the point where 100% cacao chocolate is very nearly inedible. That’s the chocolate conundrum, the healthier it is, the worse it tastes. But what if there’s another way? What if you can have tasty chocolate that’s good for you?

Roasted cocoa beans Sascha Luehr/Pixabay

That’s the question a group of researchers from Penn State University dared to ask. The secret, they discovered, is to subject the cacao beans to extra-intense roasting. We’re not sure how screaming insults at a bunch of beans will help, but if science says so ... YOU USELESS LUMP OF BARELY EDIBLE FOOD! HOW DARE YOU EXIST!

Oh, not that kind of roasting. Oops.

For their study, the researchers made 27 unsweetened chocolates, prepared using various cacao bean roasting times and temperatures, and served them to volunteers. Those volunteers reported that chocolates made with cacao beans roasted more intensely (such as 20 minutes at 340° F, 80 min at 275° F, and 54 min at 304° F) were far more acceptable than were chocolates prepared with raw or lightly roasted cacao beans.

The implications of healthy yet tasty chocolate are obvious: Master the chocolate and you’ll make millions. Imagine a future where parents say to their kids: “Don’t forget to eat your chocolate.” So, we’re off to do some cooking. Don’t want Hershey to make all the money off of this revelation.

The villain hiding in dairy for some MS patients

For some of us, lactose can be a real heartbreaker when it comes to dairy consumption, but for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) there’s another villain they may also have to face that can make their symptoms worse.

Various dairy products fcafotodigital/Getty Images

Physicians at the Institute of Anatomy at University Hospital Bonn (Germany) were getting so many complaints from patients with MS about how much worse they felt about after having cheese, yogurt, and milk that they decided to get to the bottom of it. The culprit, it seems, is casein, a protein specifically found in cow’s milk.

The researchers injected mice with various proteins found in cow’s milk and found perforated myelin sheaths in those given casein. In MS, the patient’s own immune system destroys that sheath, which leads to paresthesia, vision problems, and movement disorders.

“The body’s defenses actually attack the casein, but in the process they also destroy proteins involved in the formation of myelin, “ said Rittika Chunder, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bonn. How? Apparently it’s all a big misunderstanding.

While looking at molecules needed for myelin production, the researchers came across MAG, which is very similar to casein, which is a problem when patients with MS are allergic to casein. After they have dairy products, the B-cell squad gets called in to clean up the evil twin, casein, but can’t differentiate it from the good twin, MAG, so it all gets a wash and the myelin sheath suffers.

Since this happens only to patients with MS who have a casein allergy, the researchers advise them to stay away from milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese while they work on a self-test to check if patients carry the antibodies.

A small price to pay, perhaps, to stop a villainous evil twin.


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