“Scientists unlock chocolate genes”

Don’t mess with Mother Nature
Researchers have found the genes that code for the production of the cocoa butter in Theobroma cacao, needed to make sweets, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Studying the genes of Mother Nature’s finest crop cacao, researchers are finding ways to make the best chocolate in the world “better”. Better means, increased disease resistance and increased profitability to the grower.

Researchers have found genes that code for the production of cocoa butter, a substance highly prized in chocolate making, confectionery, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Most cocoa beans are already about 50 percent fat, but these 84 genes control not only the amounts fat produced, but quality of the cocoa butter.  Altering these genes might produce chocolate with better flavors, aromas and even “healthier” chocolate by influencing the production of flavonoids, natural antioxidants and terpenoids, hormones and pigments.
The team sequenced the DNA of a variety of Theobroma cacao, considered to produce the world’s finest chocolate. The Maya domesticated this variety of Theobroma cacao, Criollo, about 3,000 years ago in Central America, and it is one of the oldest domesticated tree crops. Today, many growers prefer to grow hybrid cacao trees that produce chocolate of lower quality but are more resistant to disease.
“Fine cocoa production is estimated to be less than 5 percent of the world cocoa production because of low productivity and disease susceptibility,” said Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology.
The researchers report in the current issue of Nature Genetics “consumers have shown an increased interest for high-quality chocolate made with cocoa of good quality and for dark chocolate, containing a higher percentage of cocoa, while also taking into account environmental and ethical criteria for cocoa production.”

Author: Mary Wolken, PhD., Ex. Dir CMA

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Excerpts and Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/hrSLjG

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