A series of follow-ups might look like this:
1: GWAS to look for genetic association with chocolate consumption.
2: Mendelian randomization to assess whether an inherent predisposition for increased chocolate consumption leads to increased cognitive function.
The same approach has been used to assess whether there is a dose-response of alcohol on mortality (the answer appears to be "yes," and there is no U-shaped curve).[2; non-paywalled]
This is mostly just to say that I'm not convinced by such tortured data in an association study, but if there is enough interest in the hypothesis, then the path forward to assess causality is clear.
1 = http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316...
2 = http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g4164
Now, there are other problems with that sort of data-mining and determining whether they've successfully avoided them all is highly nontrivial (and I haven't tried). So this might still be bad science. But it doesn't appear to be funded-by-vested-interests bad.
A list of what the Daily Mail has reported will kill or cure cancer. I won't spoil chocolates outcome.
I also think that nutrition science, which is deficient enough as it is, should not be mixed with epidemiology, which seems designed to detect spurious associations.
Maybe people who ate chocolate but did not report it (because "eating too much chocolate is bad for you") tended to have lower cognitive ability - they did not realise that by reporting incorrect intake they introduced bias in the study.
Theophylline is naturally found in cocoa beans. Amounts as high as 3.7 mg/g have been reported in Criollo cocoa beans.
The main actions of theophylline involve:
- relaxing bronchial smooth muscle
- increasing heart muscle contractility and efficiency; as a positive inotropic
- increasing heart rate: (positive chronotropic)
- increasing blood pressure
- increasing renal blood flow
- anti-inflammatory effects
- central nervous system stimulatory effect mainly on the medullary respiratory center.
Theophylline is also a metabolite of caffeine.
Every luxury food or drug tastes horrible until you've learnt to enjoy it. Remember your first beer or coffee? My guess is sugar would initially taste somewhat foul ('sickly sweet') if one was brought up without it.
EDIT: I'm not recommending that people start snorting or imbibing cocoa powder. However I think that if this were the only form of chocolate then one would quickly learn to enjoy it.
I wonder if it is learned or if people who like sweets have different taste buds than those who do not. I also like really hoppy beer and bitter candy.
Anecdata: About three years ago I drastically reduced my intake of carbohydrates, including all forms of sugar and starch. After around two months, I tried tasting some things that I had stopped eating -- fruit juice, a bit of pie -- and discovered that they were horribly sweet to my tongue.
> otherwise it tastes horrible; try raw cacao
Note that cocoa itself makes the brain release large amount of dopamine.
But maybe, for now, we can eat more chocolate for another ~proven benefit: "Flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa products may have a small but statistically significant effect in lowering blood pressure.."
It seems something is bad here, but I don't think it's the nutritional research. If you can't be bothered to actually read the paper, why do you think you're able to critique it?
Science first finds unlikely or unexpected correlations, unlikely or unexpected measurements, and seeks to understand from whence they came. Are they artifacts of the observation process? Tainting of the measurement process? Or spurious correlations, such as the one between height and spelling ability (both of which are strongly correlated with age, up to a certain point)?
This particular research announces an unexpected correlation and goes to pains to show that it is real, and not spurious. This is the observation phase, the oh, didn't expect that phase. Explanation will come later, likely after someone designs a more accurate and precise experiment to better correlate chocolate consumption and cognitive ability.
>[science] doesn't pull explanations from the air
Well, people think about problems and then ideas sometimes pop into their heads. No one understands how yet. So explanations do come out of the air, metaphorically speaking! That doesn't make them false. It's what happens afterwards that counts. Most ideas are rejected by criticism and a few go on to be tested.
So that can't be how scientists operate
I'm torn between writing "citation needed" and "unwarranted conclusion from stated premises" so I'll go with both.
The head of the department where I did my physics undergrad spent years, decades, measuring everything there was to measure about plasma: Energy input, energy output, temperature of the phase change (plasma is a distinct phase of matter), spectral distribution, etc., etc., etc.
He wrote many papers, primarily on his measurements, and also on how he refined and improved the measurement process. I don't recall at all well, but I don't believe there were overmany hypotheses, let alone theories. He was about data, not models.
There are theorists who spend the bulk of their time with pens and imagination, occasionally - for some, rarely - checking in with the empirically real world.
A very few of these have names we celebrate for changing the shape of the world - Darwin, Newton, Einstein. And these particular luminaries knew the shape of the real world, knew existing theory didn't fit. (Newton is famous for saying he stood on the shoulders giants. Kepler was one such. Kepler measured and measured and measured and devised a relation. No theory, just a relation to link his measurements.)
Without the many scientists who do nothing but measure, measure, measure, scientists many of us would consider tedious drudges, these luminaries could never have known that theory didn't fit data. Or that data didn't fit intuition. Or that data was just plain weird.
Science does indeed proceed this way, bottom up, from measuring anything and everything of interest (to someone - maybe not to most of us, but to someone - I invite you to read The Map that Changed the World).
Science also proceeds from the top down, from theory to measurement. But often because there was another theory that failed to align with existing measurement. Think general relativity and its better prediction of the motion of Mercury, which failed to align with Newtonian Gravitation, which itself would never have arisen had Kepler not spent so many hours measuring, measuring, measuring. (And general relativity was a generalization of special relativity, which was created to explain a particular vexing measurement, the constancy of C. Einstein did not set out to reinvent gravity, he started simply explaining how C might be constant. He got to gravitation when he generalized relativity to non-inertial reference frames (that's what the special meant: inertial reference frames only).
We measure first. Just because we are that curious.
>Is all nutritional research this bad?
My Quantitive Methods lecturer used it as a perfect example of the correlation/causation fallacy; it was certainly a good way of lightening the mood at a 9am Friday lecture :)
"In addition to MANOVA, the Bonferroni procedure was used to protect against multiple comparisons."
The Bonferroni correction is one of the most conservative ways to correct for multiple testing.
people should pay attention to how they feel 30 minutes after eating a particular food more than any research study that has ever been published.
To pick one at random: "Flavonoids exert a multiplicity of neuroprotective actions within the brain, including a potential to protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, an ability to suppress neuroinflammation, and the potential to promote memory, learning and cognitive function. These effects appear to be underpinned by two common processes . . ."
Most of us enjoy eating the stuff so it's no surprise that chocolate as a flavonoid-containing substance gets special attention.
I didn't like their dark chocolate, but their milk chocolate comes pretty close to regular milk chocolate.
The best AS for me is sucralose (Splenda). I can't tell it apart from sugar. I've also never seen any results about it that would concern me, and it's been studied more than almost anything else we eat.
Oddly enough, after so many years, I don't like the taste of sugar any more, it seems 'off'. Aspartame is fine.
In the current zeitgeist, 'natural' is assumed to be better.
"Holt SHA, Brand Miller JC, Petocz P. An insulin index of foods: the insulin demand generated by 1000-kJ portions of common foods. Am J Clin Nutr 66, 1264-1276"
I highly recommend it as a source for glycemic response of different foods; some things are entirely counterintuitive.
Are you on low sugar/flour/starch diet?
Chocolate improves brain function. Now I can say with impunity "Chocolate is improving my brain function."
Improve that precision!
Except for the food with cyanide in it.
Cheeseburger + chocolate milk shake.
Quinoa with kale.
What would you say is more healthy?
The comparison is idiotic.
If a person suffers anorexia their whole diet is unhealthy and has to become healthy. Their relationship with food is also unhealthy.
The former is much more suitable meal for someone having difficulties meeting their caloric needs. If they have it couple of times a day every day, then we know the diet is unhealthy.
The latter can be a nice addition to a healthy diet.
The amount of downvotes on my first comment means that quite a lot of community here have an unhealthy relationship with food.
Checkout the link above. I hope it'll improve your relationship with food.
It wouldn't be the diet you'd eat in other circumstances but context matters.
Brain is a sugar sucker. Eat food which has natural sugar (like fruits) and you still be happy. Chocolate is just one sour junk which sugar added to please your bain (which is the trick). I think eat the chocolate without sugar and see if it sill improves brain function