Study Reveals the Earliest Use Of Cocoa and Chocolate

Study Reveals the Earliest Use Of Cocoa and Chocolate

After you come home late from a busy day of work, you barely have the energy to cook a meal for yourself. Baking a cake or just any other dessert almost seems impossible. But what if you get sugar cravings at night after having food?

Some people choose to ignore it while others satisfy their cravings with the easiest and most convenient option – chocolate!

Who does not like chocolate? You are highly unlikely to come across any person who does not enjoy chocolate in any of its forms. Whether it is a bar of dark chocolate or your favorite chocolate cupcake, chocolate always helps in uplifting your mood.

Chocolate is made using cacao, or what is called cocoa now, beans,  the seeds of Theobroma cacao as well as the cacao tree. The percentage of chocolate present in your favorite form and type varies.

You are most probably well aware of chocolate types and forms but did you know that chocolate is just not a comfort food?

Consuming dark chocolate can not only make you happy but also provide numerous health benefits. Research has shown that eating dark chocolate can improve memory and concentration, is good for the health of the heart and helps in better vision.

It is not only you. The ancients tribes such as the Aztecs and Maya made ‘sacred drinks’ using cacao beans some 3,900 years ago. They were even used as currency!

This was the earliest known use of cacao until now. New research has shown that humans might have been using cacao and chocolate even before these tribes. The study is in published in the journal  Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Read the study here. 

What Did the Study Show?

The team of researchers in this study came from many different institutions including the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and many more. They begin the study by investigating the genomes of several cacao trees.

The main purpose behind doing so was to look for specific indications of diversity. Finding them would mean that there is a possibility of earlier domestications. Before this study, the domestication of cacao trees is believed to originate in Central America.

However, the researchers found that the domestication of  Theobroma cacao was done before in equatorial South America. In addition, it may have also occurred a thousand years than the suggested time period in older studies.

One of the leading authors of the study, Prof. Michael Blake, says:

“This new study shows us that people in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin, extending up into the foothills of the Andes in southeastern Ecuador, were harvesting and consuming cacao that appears to be a close relative of the type of cacao later used in Mexico and they were doing this 1,500 years earlier.”

Secondly, another evidence that backs up the claims of this research is the patterns on ancient pottery from the South American region. The patterns are a clue that the cultivation of cacao trees begin there and reached Central regions gradually.

What Were the Results?

To confirm their results further, the researchers also analyzed ancient pottery Santa Ana-La Florida in Ecuador. This originally belonged to and was made by the Mayo-Chinchipe some 5,450 years ago. Using three different methods – DNA sequences, starch grains, chemical biomarkers – the team confirmed that their theory was in fact true.

The  Mayo-Chinchipe people were the first ones to domesticate the cacao trees and this happens 1,500 years before they reached Central America.

According to the team, studying the histories of the commonly used foods today can help understand how humans came to where they are today. It may as well help with any developments in the future.

Hilary Jensen

Hilary is a Food Science and Nutrition graduate with specialization in diet planning and weight loss. She enjoys reading and writing on Food, Nutrition, Diet, Weight Loss, and General Health.

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