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How Dark Chocolate May Guard Against Brain Injury from Stroke

Interesting article from ScienceDaily suggests epicatechins in dark chocolate limit nerve damage in brain following a stroke—possibly by stimulating the body’s own defenses:

How Dark Chocolate May Guard Against Brain Injury from Stroke
ScienceDaily (May 5, 2010)

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.

Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals’ brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the epicatechin suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.

While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two- to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.

Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pharmacology and molecular sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says his study suggests that epicatechin stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways — Nrf2 and heme oxygenase 1 — are activated. In mice that selectively lacked activity in those pathways, the study found, epicatechin had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.

The study now appears online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.

Eventually, Doré says, he hopes his research into these pathways could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.

The amount of dark chocolate people would need to consume to benefit from its protective effects remains unclear, since Doré has not studied it in clinical trials. People shouldn’t take this research as a free pass to go out and consume large amounts of chocolate, which is high in calories and fat. In fact, people should be reminded to eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Scientists have been intrigued by the potential health benefits of epicatechin by studying the Kuna Indians, a remote population living on islands off the coast of Panama. The islands’ residents had a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Scientists who studied them found nothing striking in the genes and realized that when they moved away from Kuna, they were no longer protected from heart problems. Researchers soon discovered the reason was likely environmental: The residents of Kuna regularly drank a very bitter cocoa drink, with a consistency like molasses, instead of coffee or soda. The drink was high in the compound epicatechin, which is a flavanol, a flavanoid-related compound.

But Doré says his research suggests the amount needed could end up being quite small because the suspected beneficial mechanism is indirect. “Epicatechin itself may not be shielding brain cells from free radical damage directly, but instead, epicatechin, and its metabolites, may be prompting the cells to defend themselves,” he suggests.

The epicatechin is needed to jump-start the protective pathway that is already present within the cells. “Even a small amount may be sufficient,” Doré says.

Not all dark chocolates are created equally, he cautions. Some have more bioactive epicatechin than others.

“The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light” he says. “In the process of making chocolate, you have to make sure you don’t destroy it. Only few chocolates have the active ingredient. The fact that it says ‘dark chocolate’ is not sufficient.

“The new study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart and Stroke Association.

Other Johns Hopkins researchers on the study include Zahoor A. Shah, Ph.D.; Rung-chi Li, Ph.D.; Abdullah S. Ahmad, Ph.D.; Thomas W. Kensler, Ph.D.; and Shyam Biswal, Ph.D


guest blog from Casey

If you were in Port au Prince, Haiti, in the days and weeks following January’s earthquake you were almost certainly exhausted. For those whose homes and workplaces were in the areas affected by the earthquake, exhaustion was a result of the daily effort put into reestablish normalcy and coping with a dramatically changed world. For those like me who had arrived to help in the days following the quake, exhaustion came first from confronting the overwhelming needs and then from doing all you could to address them.

In the Spring of 2009 I had the good fortune of working as a student on a project for TCHO’s sourcing division. My team helped evaluate the social and environmental benefits to Peruvian farmers of partnering with and selling beans to TCHO. I’d been introduced to the company by my friend Ann Cleaveland, who over the course of the semester helped me to understand the science behind phenomenal chocolate, the nuances of chocolate flavor and the need for language to talk about it. In that semester of graduate school, with a seemingly endless workload and a seemingly endless supply of what I’ve come to believe to be the finest chocolate around, I also came to understand the benefit of a well placed taste of quality chocolate in the midst of long hours of hard work. With this in mind, I reached out to Ann when I got the call from Medicins Sans Frontieres to head to Haiti.

“Ann, I got the call… They need me to be a sort of hospitality manager for 65 exhausted nurses, doctors and surgeons from all over the world… I need chocolate.” Within 24 hours I was packed and ready to go with what must have been 5 lbs of TCHO chocolate. Over the course of the following 2 months I administered the chocolate to my team of doctors and nurses and the patients we were serving at the critical moments; the moments when they needed strength to combat the exhaustion. And strength it delivered. I was so pleased to be there contributing to the relief effort and sharing the magic of TCHO chocolate with people of all walks from all over the world.
Thank you Ann. Thank you TCHO!


TCHO at the Google Micro Kitchen Fair!

Today was the Google Micro Kitchen Fair at the Mountain View Campus. For anyone who isn’t familiar with the Google Micro Kitchen concept, I’ve included a brief description:

Google Micro Kitchens

Since 1999, Google has taken the concept of a “free lunch” to the next level –providing lunch to all employees globally and establishing an innovative and precedent setting standard for on-site vendor provided corporate meal services.

Google’s unique Micro Kitchen (MK) program was developed from the founders’ ideal that no Googler should be more than 150 feet away from food at any time.

As a result, the Micro Kitchens have become a fixture in every Google office. The Google MK is an open pantry, grab and go area complete with packaged snacks, cereals, coffee machines, and cold beverages. Googlers have come to rely on the MK’s as a place that provides quick, convenient healthy snacks and beverages.

The Google Culinary Team puts just as much effort in creating delicious, nutritious Cafe meal offerings, as they do in instilling the food values in 80% of the MK offerings by pledging: We will engage local artisan vendors, We will strive to offer high quality, nutritionally balanced snacks and beverages, We do not use MSG and avoid products that contain them.
Because the Culinary Team wanted to keep the Google culture alive in the MK’s, they began

giving Googlers the opportunity to vote on the remaining 20% of the products via a survey.

Our Cafes, MK’s and CP’s are a part of Google’s philosophy that work should be fun – and that it is a company’s responsibility to give employees healthy and mind engaging programs to keep our company strong and innovative. With a core standard of local, organic, nutritionally balanced snacks and beverages along with the Googler 20% weigh-in of “fun” items, our MK’s and CP’s are sure keep you happy and healthy!

20% Voting and Micro Kitchen Food Fair

There is a 80 / 20 rule that is central to Google’s MK’s – 80% core products are available in all MK’s and 20% are voted for periodically to add variety and to make it fun for Googlers. For a period of one week, Googlers will be allowed to log into an online survey tool to indicate their favorite snacks for each product group.

Emi, Larry and I attended the fair today and there was a great response to TCHO. We gave out over 4,000 5 gram samples and made a lot of Googlers very happy that we were there. Googlers were able to vote by SKU so they were voting for our individual bars. The voting process began today at the Fair (see photos below) and will continue for the next week via an online survey. We won’t know the results for approximately three weeks.

My thanks to Larry and Emi for an amazing job today and to everyone else who helped support today’s program.


A day in the life at MK 4.0…

Red Bull set up a cafe complete with DJ

Luna and Clif Bar side by side 

Googlers equipped with Nexus One phones get their voting instructions here




Larry sharing the TCHO love…

 and working the crowd!

no really, there’s no fruit in Fruity!!

Emi helping a hungry Googler stock up on TCHO

Flavor Wheel tutorial

say “TCHO”!!


Chocolate reduces risk of stroke or heart attack…

The article below just came out in the Guardian UK…. sounds like a great reason to go buy a TCHO-A-DAY gift for all your loved ones–and yourself!

The dose in our TCHO-A-DAY (8g/day) is even about the same as that used in the study cited below.

It’s official: Chocolate is good for you

Chocolate reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack by increasing flow of blood around the brain and lowering blood pressure, study finds

Chocolate lovers and those eagerly awaiting Easter eggs, rejoice. Your indulgence means you are less likely to have a stroke or heart attack, especially if dark chocolate is your thing.

New research shows that regularly consuming as little as a square of chocolate a day helps to reduce your blood pressure and thus your chance of succumbing to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is Britain’s biggest killer.

Scientists have found that people eating just 7.5 grams of chocolate daily were at a 39% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who ate just 1.7 grams.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, found that modest chocolate intake had a significant effect on people’s blood pressure. The benefits were more pronounced for a reduced risk of a stroke, but also brought less chance of a heart attack too. Cardiovascular diseases are the UK’s biggest killer, claiming 200,000 lives a year, including 67,000 from strokes.

Researchers led by Dr Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, made the link after studying the health of 19,357 Germans aged 35-65 for at least ten years, including their food intake. They believe that flavanols, substances in cocoa that boost the body’s supply of nitric oxide, contribute to the chocolate eaters’ lowered blood pressure.

The new research confirms an association which other studies have made. The lower likelihood of stroke may be due to cocoa increasing the flow of blood around the brain, the authors say.

Among 1,568 participants whose chocolate intake was tracked 57% ate milk chocolate, 24% preferred dark and just 2% ate white chocolate. The dark variety contains more flavanols, and so is thought to have a greater effect.

However, these findings should not lead to chocolate gluttony, said the authors. “Given these and other promising health effects of cocoa, it is tempting to indulge more in chocolate”. But further research was needed before small amounts of chocolate could be prescribed as part of a diet aimed to prevent CVD.”This sounds like a dream for chocolate lovers and just in time for Easter too, but it’s important to read the small print with this study,” said Victoria Taylor, the British Heart Foundation’s senior heart health nurse.

“The amount consumed on average by even the highest consumer was about one square of chocolate a day or half a small chocolate Easter egg in a week, so the benefits were associated with a fairly small amount of chocolate.”Those tempted to indulge should remember that chocolate contains large amounts of calories and saturated fats, which are related to weight gain and high cholesterol – two risk factors for heart disease. And people should also eat fruit, vegetables and oily fish and be active for at least half-an-hour daily, Taylor added.

“Basic science has demonstrated quite convincingly that dark chocolate particularly, with a cocoa content of at least 70%, reduces oxidative stress and improves vascular and platelet function” said Professor Frank Ruschitzka of the European Society of Cardiology.

“However, before you rush to add dark chocolate to your diet, be aware that 100g of dark chocolate contains roughly 500 calories.



About those supplements . . .

Wondering what works and doesn’t in that fistful of supplements you down with your orange juice in the morning? Just check out this interactive infographic. (Thanks and a tip of my hat to Ed Dumke.)



Completing The Circle

Two weeks ago a lucky few of us at TCHO were lucky enough to be guests of NOPA, super restaurant on Divisidero and Hayes here in San Francisco. There are a lot of restaurants that use local ingredients and have jumped on the sustainable foods bandwagon because it is the right thing to do, or because it sells well. At NOPA, this is not adaptation to a trend but what they are really about.

Last month we had the pleasure of having Pastry Chef, Amy Brown, a good part of the kitchen staff, wait staff and wine director and blogger Caleb Taft over to our factory for a tour. It was great to share what we are doing at TCHO, how we bring our relationships with farmers through the chocolate making process to create great products that bring lasting value to our producer partners, our employees, shareholders, investors and to our customers. After visiting NOPA for dinner shortly afterwards, reading their blog and an entire section of their website dedicated to their purveyors, I began to understand what a great connection TCHO and NOPA share.

After visiting their purveyors, learning more about the ingredients they use and the people behind them, in an incredibly gracious and generous commitment, NOPA ‘completes the circle’ by reciprocating and inviting their suppliers to a special lunch featuring their ingredients in thoughtful and creative ways. We shared the table with guests from Sonoma County Poultry - Liberty Farms, a fantastic producer of delectable Sonoma Duck and from Radio Coteau, a unique winery that broadcasts ‘coastal expressions of soil, seasons, people and place’.

Here is the food NOPA created, bringing us all together:

Cara Cara arugala salad with blood orange marmalade
County Line Rose, Anderson Valley, 2009, Champaigne clones
Duck pate with cocoa nibs on toasted bread
Radio Coteau, La Neblina Pinot Noir, Sonoma 2007

Liberty Farms braised duck leg in chocolate infused duck jus
Grist mills polenta, Yolo county (milled a week ago!)
Black beans from rancho Gordo (Eddie’s favorite beans!) with TCHOPro 68% blend, ancho chile, garlic cayenne and cinnamon and choco duck jus
Radio Coteau, La Colina Syrah, 2007

CHOCOLATEY Pot de Creme with cocoa nib cream
FRUITY Chocolate sauce with dried fruit compote from Blosom Bluff
NUTTY Gianduja Ganache on toasted brioches – hamburger bun!
CITRUS semifreddo (frozen mousse) on a fuilatine crust with candied kumquat

What an incredibly creative and delectable combination of ingredients, inspiration and talent.

In keeping with NOPA’s goal of creating a sense of community and shared experiences, we were invited to come early and share in the preparation of this incredible food, but alas, we do have to work as well…. NOPA walks the talk and in doing so creates relationships, lasting experience and value for all.


just another day at work….

You might wonder if everyone who works here can eat as much chocolate as we want every day. The answer is YES. But you actually don’t feel like eating as much as you might imagine you would. Sure, some nibbling every day… But it’s baked goodies (made with our baking drops) that really elicit excitement around here.

At least once or twice a week, we arrive at the chocolate factory office to find some delectable plate of chocolatey goodness waiting for us. Usually these are baked by either someone on our team (often Rick!) or a friend of someone on our team.

This morning, Jennifer P (friend of John’s) baked these unbelievably moist chewy chocolate brownies draped in caramel and roasted pecans. My cell ph photo does not do justice to them – but you can catch the caramel sheen and imagine their texture I think.

Baked with our 66% organic fair trade baking drops, they were outstanding! A little sweet and intense for first thing in the morning–but we are used to that around here. They were inhaled in minutes.

OK, I’m totally buzzed. Had to share that with you all. Back to work!

Epilogue: But the sweetness continued: just as the brownie plate was emptied (just before posting this story), Rick came from the Production Area with a tray full of fresh baking drops. This is a regular occurrence around here.

Rick cheerfully appears with his tray in hand (hair net and beard net still on) and encourages everyone to try the latest fresh chocolate (straight from the molding line). And he asks what you think. This batch? (‘Yes; Delicious! They are so FRUITY! A veritable fruit bomb’).

signing off in chocolatey buzzy bliss,


Chocolate gives a better buzz than kissing?

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought this research (cited by the BBC) might be relevant…

Turns out, chocolate gives you more of a buzz than kissing! Sounds like a fun one to test.


Chocolate ‘better than kissing’

When it comes to tongues, melting chocolate is better than a passionate kiss, scientists have found. Couples in their 20s had their heart rates and brains monitored whilst they first melted chocolate in their mouths and then kissed.

Chocolate caused a more intense and longer lasting “buzz” than kissing, and doubled volunteers’ heart rates. The research was carried out by Dr David Lewis, formerly of the University of Sussex, and now of the Mind Lab. Experts, concerned at growing levels of obesity throughout the developed world, warn that chocolate should only be consumed in moderation.

Dr Lewis said: “There is no doubt that chocolate beats kissing hands down when it comes to providing a long-lasting body and brain buzz. A buzz that, in many cases, lasted four times as long as the most passionate kiss.” He said substances in chocolate were already known to have a psychoactive effect, but that allowing it to melt on your tongue could be the secret to maximising the buzz.

The volunteers, all aged in their 20s, had electrodes attached to their scalps and wore heart monitors during the two tests. The researchers compared their resting heart rates with those during the chocolate and kissing tests.

Longer lasting effects
Although kissing set the heart pounding, the effect did not last as long as that seen with the chocolate, which increased heart rates from a resting rate of about 60 beats per minute to 140. The study also found that as the chocolate started melting, all regions of the brain received a boost far more intense and longer lasting than the excitement seen with kissing.

Although women are generally thought to be bigger fans of chocolate than men, the research found the same reactions to chocolate in both sexes. Dr Lewis said: “These results really surprised and intrigued us. While we fully expected chocolate- especially dark chocolate – to increase heart rates due to the fact it contains some highly stimulating substances, both the length of this increase together with the powerful effects it had on the mind were something none of us had anticipated.”

Psychologist Sue Wright said: “Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which can raise levels of endorphins, the pleasure-giving substances, in the brain. It also contains caffeine which has a stimulatory effect on the brain. This would explain why chocolate can give people a buzz, and why people can become addicted to it.”

The research used a new 60% cocoa dark chocolate from Cadbury, and a spokeswoman for the chocolate makers said: “You’d think people would be shy about kissing in a laboratory, but that wasn’t the case at all. We’re not talking about a quick peck here.”

The Mind Lab is funded by members of the food industry, although no firm can be linked to any individual study.


Theobromine in chocolate suppresses coughing

Next time you’re coughing, remember your chocolate! Turns out, the theobromine in chocolate suppresses vagus nerve activity, which is responsible for causing coughing. And it works better than codeine!

The BBC article and the research it cites below are from several years ago, but since it’s cold/flu season, I thought it would be relevant right about now.

Chocolate could be cough medicine

Better than pills or potions?

An ingredient of chocolate could put a stop to persistent coughs and lead to new, more effective cough medicines, research suggests.

Scientists found the key ingredient, theobromine, is nearly a third more effective in stopping persistent coughs than the leading medicine codeine.

They say it produces fewer side effects than conventional treatment – and would not leave people drowsy.

The research, led by Imperial College London, is published in FASEB journal.

This discovery could be a huge step forward in treating this problem.

Professor Peter Barnes
Researcher Professor Peter Barnes said: “Coughing is a medical condition which affects most people at some point in their lives, and yet no effective treatment exists.

“While persistent coughing is not necessarily harmful it can have a major impact on quality of life, and this discovery could be a huge step forward in treating this problem.”

The researchers gave 10 healthy volunteers theobromine, a placebo or codeine at different times.

They then exposed the volunteers to capsaicin, a substance used in clinical research to cause coughing.

The concentration of capsaicin required to produce a cough in those people given theobromine was around one third higher when compared with the group receiving a placebo.

When the group received codeine they needed only marginally higher levels of capsaicin to produce coughing, compared with the placebo.

Nerve activity
Theobromine works by suppressing vagus nerve activity, which is responsible for causing coughing.

The team also discovered that unlike standard cough treatments, theobromine caused no adverse effects on either the cardiovascular or central nervous systems.

Professor Maria Belvisi, who also worked on the study, said: “Not only did theobromine prove more effective than codeine, at the doses used it was found to have none of the side effects.

“Normally the effectiveness of any treatment is limited by the dosage you can give someone.

“With theobromine having no demonstrated side effects in this study it may be possible to give far bigger doses, further increasing its effectiveness.

“At the same time, theobromine may not have any of the side effects such as drowsiness. This means there will be no restrictions on when it can be taken.

“For example, people using heavy machinery or who are driving should not take codeine, but they could take theobromine.”

Encouraging results
Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation said: “The results of this research sound very promising.

“Persistant coughing often affects lung disease patients so this could be a progressive step in terms of treating it. Also, it is encouraging to find no adverse effects.

“We would like to see more research done to fully understand the potential of these findings and would advise patients to speak to their GP before changing their medication or treating their cough with chocolate!”

Dr Richard Russell, of the British Thoracic Society, said: “Over-the-counter sales for acute cough medicines currently reach approximately £100m a year in the UK – money that is being spent on remedies, where there is no evidence that they work.

“The number of people with undiagnosed chronic cough is increasing in this country – and more effective treatments are needed.

“The condition can be really distressing and so I hope this research provides a clue for future treatments.”


TCHO now in Starbucks (and a whole bunch of other great news)

Yesterday was a big day for our chocolate company! I think Louis summed it up well in the email he sent out yesterday afternoon (and, yes, the day ended with a little team celebration):

(make sure to play the audio below while you read!):
Today is an auspicious day in TCHO’s history. We’ve sacrificed, worked insanely hard, suffered the despair of Start Up Land — but today, it’s time to savor some of the exhilaration:

1. We are in 5,500 Starbucks across the country. For perspective, before today, we were in about 300 outlets.
2. We are in Martha Stewart Living’s (2M circ) February issue, which mailed to subscribers today. This is what Martha had to say about TCHO: “In our blind chocolate taste test, TCHO was the hands down star.”
3. We are in the February issue of Travel & Leisure (950K)
4. We are a feature story in United Airlines Hemispheres magazine(4.5M)
5. We are a feature story in AirTrans Go magazine (2M)
6. We are in Wired UK and Wired Italia (200K circ)
7. The AIB audit is done — this is the toughest, most meaningful certification for the factory–and we passed with flying colors; given a “superior” rating
8. The Fancy Food Show is upon us, and our party is looking to be oversubscribed.

Are we excited yet? Can you feel the momentum?

Let’s lift a glass at 4:30!



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