Friday, October 18, 2013

Chocolate and the Anandamide Crisis

"Money cant buy happiness; but it can buy chocolate, which is kinda the same thing ...."

 Not any more.

Whoever said that, clearly did not have a clue about Global Warning; well, actually the latest warning,  that says that the Earth will run out of chocolate by 2020, or according to more hopeful people, by 2023.   

Turns out that the plantations in West Africa, Caribbean and South America , that hired cheap labor to grow cacao trees,  now find better returns if they grow crops like rubber.  Cacao trees will grow and fruit after 5 years, and the actual cocoa bean , is retrieved after some processing that involves removing the fruit pulp  from the cocoa fruit, and further working on the bittersweet chocolaty flavor bean inside.

Chocolate has been devoured since  1400 BC, though in a slightly different form than we are used to. The early Mayans and Mesoamericans relished it as a frothy hot drink, flavoured with chilli peppers ,  which must have been an acquired taste. A sixteenth century Jesuit Missionary has mentioned it as  "loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste".  At some point in time, cacao beans were actually used as barter currency , as Christopher Columbus, noticed, on his repeated trips in search of the Americas.

Although 70% of the world chocolate consumption is attributable to Europe and the West, the growing Asian demand for chocolate has thrown the Cocoa plantations into a crisis. There simply isn't enough space to grow all the cacao beans that we will need in the future.

And we must brace for a Chocolate famine.

We are of course seized of the matter in India, :-)  and a special committee is looking into the growth and distribution aspects of chocolate and how the government can control things. :-(

Controlled temperature SEZ's  are on the anvil, which will simulate equatorial weather.  Many cities in central India, like Nagpur are in the race. The government has invited applications from all the corporates, though it has not yet been decided whether to auction the SEZ's or to hand out these things on first come first serve basis.  Given that no one is willing to be Minister of State for Chocolates, there is a proposal to introduce by ordinance The Unique Chocolate Authority of India (UCAI). Efforts are on to acquire Cadbury House in downtown Mumbai as headquarters, but talks are currently at a standstill, due to protests from a political party that is recommending 100% FDI in chocolate. The Investigative agencies are keeping a keen watch on representatives of Hersheys, Ferreo Rocher, Toblerone, who seem to be flitting in and out of the concerned ministries, while BNN-ICN is conducting polls to find out if there is an impending chocolate scam . Of course, some parties have demanded a reservation for certain folks in the SEZ's, and this has assumed interesting importance, given that whichever party rules after 2014, will be faced with chocolate politics should it run full term.

While powerful types continue to destroy the charm of chocolate by interfering, kids in primary school continue to arrive in class on their birthdays, dressed in civil clothes, clutching a bag of chocolates to distribute in class.  Small wrapped chocolates from glass jars, continue to be exchanged for small change , lighting up the eyes of kids accompanying adults. Ecstatic small kids still hide chocolate cream biscuits, in tightly held fists till they disintegrate, and the dunk the whole ones in milk, to lick them in delight. Chocolate cakes are still the flavor of the birthday,  and several pockets of school kids, have been known to have layered chocolate innards, thanks to  surreptitiously carrying slabs of chocolate in the hot sun.  Old folks still enjoy chocolate mints, despite their diabetes, and find it difficult to refuse when a child wordlessly offers them a bite from a huge chocolate slab.

What is true is that eating chocolate creates a "feel good" situation.  And this is a scientific fact. 

Chocolate contains almost 300 chemicals. Out of these caffeine and theobromine are amongst those that contribute to the wonderful feeling.  Folks who have been researching how the brain creates the "feel good" situation, have found that chocolate contains certain pharmacological active substances. Our brains have cells that have receptors for these, and lock on to these neurotransmitter type active substances when they arrive,  and pass on the information to the brain cells, which then give us the "feel good"  sensation.

Turns out, that chocolates, contain a neurotransmitter, called, believe it or not, Anandamide !   This is broken down quickly once absorbed into the cells, but turns out that chocolate contains other stuff that delay the breakdown of Anandamide, which explains how we tend to feel good for a long time after eating chocolate.  The fellows at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, probably do not realize how perfectly they have named the neurotransmitter, Anandamide.

I wonder if has an Indian connection.  "Ananda"***mide, indeed !


22 years ago, we visited the Hershey's factory near Ottawa in Canada, a trip which was of great interest to the daughter, then  aged 5.  There is a visitors' gallery all around the factory, where you can walk, and watch below, large cauldrons of chocolate being crushed, melted, mixed, and poured into different things , and kids often feel jealous of those empowered to hang around  near the stuff below. After a tour, they take you to an auditorium, where a film is shown .

The daughter watched the film, sitting at the edge of her seat, mouth agape, till they started showing , to the accompaniment of crescendo music, a huge vat of melted chocolate being poured copiously into some huge container.

At this point, she leans back, eyes closed, breathes in deeply , and seriously announces, "you know what, I could even smell the wonderful chocolate  from the film !".

A whole bunch of folks around us, suddenly looked at her with  indulgent respect.

And the lovely smells continued to emanate from the factory cauldrons below , which we had just seen. 

I don't know what further research is currently on regarding the chocolate and its effect on the brain.

But Anandamide, has certainly introduced  films with olfactory outputs.   I think Shrek, Walt Disney, Chacha Chaudhary  types, and others would have approved. 

Come 2020, where do get our dose of Anandamide ? Or will it appear as the JHMJRGNY (Jan Hit Mein Jari R G Neurotransmitter Yojana ) ?


*** Ananda ~  Happiness.  In my language, Marathi, and most Indian languages . 

7 comments:

  1. hahahahaha! you are awesome..seriously awesome..how could you even think of writing such a brilliant piece..totally funny :)

    but on the other hand, we will run out of chocolates eh? *goes to buy a BEEEG bar of chocolate for self, just to get out of the depression*

    Daughter is super cute na :)

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    1. Thank you . Now that I am hearing about the official gold diggng at Unnao, I can seriously believe that they will also be involved in the Chocolate stuff. But for poor folks like us, it is simpler to go buy a BEEEG bar of chocolate , as you plan on doing ..... !

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  2. I love the name Anandamide!!!! (And your post, of course!!!!)

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    1. Dipali, Thank you! I too thought that the name was absolutely brilliant !

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  4. Woow this much of information about chocolates is so wonderful..thank you for sharing!! looking forward for more updates instead you can alsoBuy Chocolate Slab Online easily

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  5. For me friday has always been a chocolate day. I always make chocolate tarts and pies on friday. I always buy chocolate slabs online as it gives you many options and shapes.

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