Chocolate is one of those rare foods that is not only really tasty but also has significant health benefits. (You can read some of our previous posts on chocolate and health here.)
Although chocolate is a health powerhouse all on its own, scientists from several companies, universities and research organizations have been working in an "international, multidisciplinary effort" to unlock the genome of the cacao tree. After two years, the genome was sequenced in September, and scientists believe that in the near future, it could lead to increased health benefits in relation to chocolate consumption:
Dr. Howard-Yara Shapiro spoke to the Telegraph about the discovery:
"The idea is that this is something that will become the norm – healthy fats, high levels of flavonols.
"Chocolate will become something quite different in 10-15-20 years and we are on that track now.
"Flavonols have been shown to be good for your heart in many trials. The genome can help us enhance these molecules in cocoa plants. We believe we can increase the quality of the cocoa fat to make it healthier.
"It is not as easy as it sounds but it is one of our key targets.
"It is not something we can deliver tomorrow, but maybe in five years we can. Having the genome will speed up the process because we will be able to locate which genes are responsible for high levels of flavonols and help us select for those plants."
The advances could lead to healthier fats in chocolate, along with higher concentrations of compounds that combat diabetes and increase brain function, for instance. Perhaps the scientists were snacking on chocolate while they worked on the project- it was completed three years ahead of schedule!