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Free Article: The history and science of chocolate
Annette Hottenstein, Registered Dietitian Annette Hottenstein, Registered Dietitian
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Baltimore , MD
Monday, March 31, 2014


One of the roles I play is content editor for the McCormick Science Institute website.  Each week I comb through thescientific literature in search of juicy tidbits on spices, herbs and other flavorings. This week's search brought up this wonderful FREE paper on the history and science of chocolate.  I'mso excited about this paper so I thought I would share it with you.

Did you know that:

  • Cacao is only grown in the "cocoa belt" - a tropical area straddling the equator - between 10 and 20 degrees northto south.
  • The ancient Mayas were the first people to enjoy cocoa around 400 AD.  They used it in a drink called "xocalatl" whichconsisted of dried cocoa beans dissolved in water, cinnamon and red pepper.  The drink was bitter and strong and not at all like the hot cocoa we enjoy today.  But did you noticehow the modern word for chocolate resembles "xocalatl"?  Pretty cool!
  • Cocoa was first introduced to the Western world in 1502 by Christopher Columbus in what is modern day Honduras.  TheEuropeans added sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to the traditional beverage - - thus the origins of chocolate as a sweet treat!
  • Modern chocolate was produced for the first time in 1879 by Rudolph Lindt in Switzerland.
  • The health benefits of chocolate may include: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-diabetic andanti-obesity, cardio-protective, improves liver functions, neuroprotective, improves intestinal flora, reduces stress hormones, reduces symptoms of glaucomaand cataract, and retards progression of paradontitis.


Here is the full abstract for the article:

This article gives an account of the origins, evolution and properties of chocolate. Chocolate is processed from the pod orcabosside of the cacao plant, grown in the tropical belt. The origins of chocolate are traced back to the Maya people who were probably the first to cultivate the cacao plant. The earlychocolate drink, considered a “drink of the Gods” was mixed with cinnamon and pepper, tasting bitter and strong, and was most appreciated for its invigorating and stimulating effects than for its taste. Imported from the Americas, the softened version soon spread in Europe. From  the 1800s to the 20th Century, it evolved from a drink to its current pleasurablevarieties (such as  fondant, Gianduja, milky and white chocolate), gaining much momentum in industry and also made great impact as a romantic item and art form. Important components inchocolate are flavonoids (antioxidants), cocoa butter, caffeine, theobromine and phenylethylamine, whereas the presence of psychoactive substances account for its pleasurable effects.Caffeine, theophylline and theobromine constitutes the methylxanthines, known to enhance the action of cAMP, which plays an important  role in the transmission of intracellular signals.Chocolate is noted to have anti-inflammatory,  neuroprotective and cardioprotective effects, and improves the bioavailability of nitric oxide, which  action improves the pressure,platelet function and fluidity of blood. 

 Verna R. The history and science of chocolate.Malays J Pathol. 2013 Dec;35(2):111-21.


Click here to access the FREE full text article.




About Sensational Sustenance, LLC
Sensational Sustenance, LLC, is a nutrition and sensory evaluation consulting company serving the Baltimore metro area and beyond. A wide selection of services for businesses, academia and the community are offered: nutrition counseling, corporate health and wellness programs, food demonstrations, supermarket tours, restaurant and recipe menu analysis, sensory evaluation, focus groups and consumer satisfaction surveys. For more information, please visit http://www.sensationalsustenance.com

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Name: Annette Hottenstein, MS, RD
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