The Latest Dope on Chocolate!

The Latest Dope on Chocolate!
Posted by FoM on December 17, 1998 at 06:50:54 PT
22,000-pound candy bar?
The latest dope on chocolate: It doesn't make people high! Go ahead, indulge your chocolate fantasies.They may make you fat, they may make you happy, but they won't, apparently, make you high.
Scientists in Italy reported today that, contrary to earlier reports, certain substances in chocolate do not appear to mimic the effects of marijuana on the brain.The Italian researchers reported that cocoa contains no more of the suspect substances than such uncelebrated foods as milk or oatmeal. Furthermore, they said, most of the substances -- known as endocannabinoids -- are broken down in the digestive system before they reach the brain.Vincenzo Di Marzo, of the Istituto per la Chimica di Molecole di Interesse Biologico in Naples, and colleagues reported their findings in today's issue of the journal Nature.Di Marzo said yesterday that it would take at least 100,000 times the test dosage, which was equivalent to 3 ounces of chocolate, to detect any psychoactive response from the brain.That would mean a 22,000-pound candy bar.Di Marzo's research was proposed and partially funded by the Nestle Research Center, a subsidiary of the Swiss-based chocolate-maker. But Di Marzo said Nestle "never tried to influence our results or lead our research." He said Nestle provided cocoa beans for testing and about 10 to 15 percent of the funding for the research. But he said he and his fellow researchers also bought chocolate in their neighborhood supermarkets for testing to avoid relying on Nestle for its chocolate.Di Marzo and his colleagues tested unfermented cocoa beans, cocoa powder, and finished chocolate to measure levels of endocannabinoids and to analyze their biological effects. They were following up on a report published in 1996 that suggested that chocolate could make people feel good because of the substances "that could act as cannabinoid mimics." But the chocolate-as-drug debate is sure to continue. The authors of the original report responded in today's Nature article that the Di Marzo study "will reassure manufacturing companies that the risks of chocolate consumption do not include cannabis-like intoxification, [ but ] they provide little new information on the intriguing psychopharmacology of cocoa." One of the initial report's authors, Daniele Piomelli, associate professor of pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine, said yesterday: "Dr. Di Marzo and his colleagues are entitled to think that chocolate has no pharmacological effect at all. But then how do they explain chocolate craving, its prevalence in women during menstruation, its unusual occurrence in certain cases of drug abuse? These facts, which have been documented in the scientific literature, point to a biological basis for chocolate craving."Piomelli said he and his colleagues have continued their research on the effects of the components of chocolate and will soon release the results.
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