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Chocolate Ingredient Cacao Dates Back To 5,400 yrs Ago

A growing interest in cacao flavors, indicates a return to a time when chocolate wasn't just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.

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A worker holds dried cacao seeds at a plantation in Cano Rico, Venezuela. VOA

New research strengthens the case that people used the chocolate ingredient cacao in South America 5,400 years ago, underscoring the seed’s radical transformation into today’s Twix bars and M&M candies.

Tests indicate traces of cacao on artifacts from an archaeological site in Ecuador, according to a study published Monday. That’s about 1,500 years older than cacao’s known domestication in Central America.

“It’s the earliest site now with domesticated cacao,” said Cameron McNeil of Lehman College in New York, who was not involved in the research.

The ancient South American civilization likely didn’t use cacao to make chocolate since there’s no established history of indigenous populations in the region using it that way, researchers led by the University of British Columbia in Canada said.

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-A cacao pod hangs from a tree at the Agropampatar chocolate farm co-op in El Clavo, Venezuela. VOA

But the tests indicate the civilization used the cacao seed, not just the fruity pulp. The seeds are the part of the cacao pod used to make chocolate.

Indigenous populations in the upper Amazon region today use cacao for fermented drinks and juices, and it’s probably how it was used thousands of years ago as well, researchers said.

Scientists mostly agree that cacao was first domesticated in South America instead of Central America as previously believed. The study in Nature Ecology & Evolution provides fresh evidence.

Three types of tests were conducted using artifacts from the Santa Ana-La Florida site in Ecuador. One tested for the presence of theobromine, a key compound in cacao; another tested for preserved particles that help archeologists identify ancient plant use; a third used DNA testing to identify cacao.

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A light almond cream candy carries the initials for Russell Stover Candies in Kansas City, Kansas. VOA

Residue from one ceramic artifact estimated to be 5,310 to 5,440 years old tested positive for cacao by all three methods. Others tested positive for cacao traces as well, but were not as old.

How cacao’s use spread between South America and Central America is not clear. But by the time Spanish explorers arrived in Central America in the late 1400s, they found people were using it to make hot and cold chocolate drinks with spices, often with a foamy top.

“For most of the modern period, it was a beverage,” said Marcy Norton, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and author of “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World.”

The chocolate drinks in Central America often contained maize and differ from the hot chocolate sold in the U.S. They did not contain milk, Norton said, and when they were sweetened, it was with honey.

 

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A worker holds cocoa beans at SAF CACAO, a export firm in San-Pedro, Ivory Coast, Jan. 29, 2016. VOA

By the 1580s, cacao was being regularly imported into Spain and spread to other European countries with milk being added along the way. It wasn’t until the 1800s that manufacturing advances in the Netherlands transformed chocolate into a solid product, Norton said.

Michael Laiskonis, who teaches chocolate classes the Institute of Culinary Education, said he’s seeing a growing interest in cacao flavors, indicating a return to a time when chocolate wasn’t just an ingredient buried in a candy bar.

Also Read: Consuming Cacao May Improve Vitamin D Intake, Says Study

He said he tries to incorporate chocolate’s past into his classes, including a 1644 recipe that combines Mayan and Aztec versions of drinks with European influences.

“It’s something that’s always been transforming,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Smokers Who Quit Do Not Generally Turn their Gaze Towards Mouth-Watering Food as Normally Thought

The results suggest that smoking abstinence does not affect the motivation for food and water

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We found that the motivations for cigarettes, food and water do not interact very much. Pixabay

Smokers who quit or abstain for whatever reason do not generally turn their gaze towards mouth-watering food as normally thought. According to researchers from University at Buffalo, smoking abstinence doesn’t greatly affect the motivation for food.

“We found that the motivations for cigarettes, food and water do not interact very much,” said Stephen Tiffany from the university’s department of psychology.

“The results suggest that smoking abstinence does not affect the motivation for food and water”.

The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, used cues and actual money to learn how much smokers might spend for cigarettes, food and water during abstinence.

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Smokers who quit or abstain for whatever reason do not generally turn their gaze towards mouth-watering food as normally thought. Pixabay

The results provide new insights for how different systems control motivation and reward.

Food does not become more appealing during those times when a smoker is in a smoke-free environment or otherwise can’t smoke.

“If you’re on an airplane and can’t smoke, you’re not likely to be spending more money than usual on snacks,” said Tiffany.

For the current study, 50 participants, all smokers who had abstained for 12 hours, had money to spend on their choices.

Also Read- Saudi Arabia and India Explore New Avenues Together

Tiffany and Jennifer Betts, the study’s co-author, sat those participants in front of a box with a sliding door.

Inside the box was one of three items: their favourite brand of cigarette, a candy bar they previously acknowledged as liking, or a cup of water.

During the study, non-abstinent smokers spent more money for cigarettes than for food. And more money for food than for water.

Abstinent smokers spent even more for cigarettes, but they didn’t spend for food or for water.

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According to researchers from University at Buffalo, smoking abstinence doesn’t greatly affect the motivation for food. Pixabay

“When people are abstinent from cigarettes their craving tends to go up, but they don’t become hypersensitive to the cue,” said Tiffany.

Also Read- The Ways Girls And Boys Get Into Hacking is Quite Different

People don’t relapse randomly. They relapse in the presence of opportunities to use which can be triggered by cues, the researchers noted. (IANS)