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I love to read the history and magic that surrounds this magical bean. This is a fun article on Theobroma cacao bean in the Lancet July 2010.
"In 1753, the noted nosologist Carl Linnaeus named it Theobroma cacao—“food of the gods”. Indeed, few natural products have been purported to effectively treat such a wide variety of disorders as has chocolate. Chocolate's medicinal benefits are traceable as far back as Aztec medical practice. There, remedies concocted from the cacao beans, which had formed in the pods produced by the “Chocolate tree”, were used to soothe stomach and intestinal complaints, control childhood diarrhoea, reduce fevers, expel phlegm by provoking cough, reduce the passage of blood in stool, and promote strength before military or sexual conquests. In later eras, chocolate remedies were thought to combat emaciation, decrease “female complaints”, delay hair growth, promote kidney stone expulsion, increase production of breastmilk, prolong longevity, both encourage and prohibit sleep, clean teeth, diminish one's timidity, and prevent syphilis."
"Throughout the closing years of the 20th century, such commercial claims for chocolate's supposed health benefits were increasingly able to draw on a burgeoning scientific interest in chocolate. Research into the health effects of cocoa—some of which is supported by chocolate manufacturers—has yielded much food for thought. Studies have been done, for example, on the effect of plant-derived, saturated stearic acid fats on cholesterol concentrations; whether consumption of chocolate has an effect on the release of phenethylamine, anandamide, or serotonin; and the properties of high-quality dark chocolate, which has high concentration of the stimulant theobromine and is also rich in flavanols. Indeed, some small studies have shown increased concentrations of a particular flavonoid, epicatechin, after chocolate consumption—a substance that promotes antioxidant activity which, in turn, decreases the activity of low-density lipoproteins. Such findings are welcomed by chocolate manufacturers, the medical community, the media, and consumers alike. Controversy remains over the extent to which, despite caloric concerns, chocolate's beneficial ingredients effectively delay atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis, inhibit blood platelet activity, stimulate blood flow, and reduce blood pressure. Still, investigators strive to ascertain whether this one-time snack may also be one of nature's greatest restorative and curative medicinal agents."
The Lancet, Volume 376, Issue 9736, Pages 158 - 159, 17 July 2010
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