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What's inside chocolate, strawberries
December 26th, 2010
01:01 PM ET

What's inside chocolate, strawberries

Strawberries and chocolate go all too well together in fondue, cakes, and any other dessert you can imagine. Now, scientists are learning more than ever about the genetic makeup of both of these foods, and that knowledge could lead to genetically modified versions that are more nutritious and easier to grow.

The journal Nature Genetics is publishing studies about the genomes of each of these foods. Each of the studies is led by a different international team of researchers, and has received a mixture of academic, U.S. government and industry funding (strawberry industry groups contributed to research on that fruit, and Hershey Corp. helped fund the cocoa study).

By sequencing the strawberry genome, scientists can learn about how the fruits could be bio-engineered to be bigger, better-tasting, and more resistant to disease, said Kevin Folta, University of Florida researcher who collaborated on the study of the woodland strawberry. Folta estimates that it will be another 5 to 10 years before strawberries genetically modified for these qualities hit the market.

This is the first sequencing of the wild strawberry genome, and one of the first of any important fruit, said co-author Mark Borodovsky of Georgia Institute of Technology. The grape's genome was sequenced in 2008, and the apple earlier this year.

Strawberries are rich in many kinds of compounds implicated in health benefits, such as antioxidants. Antioxidants may guard your body from free radicals, atoms or groups of atoms that can damage cells. Understanding the genes underlying the synthesis of these beneficial substances may lead to the creation of strawberries that produce higher amounts of those compounds.

The cocoa study, similarly, could lead to the invention of more nutritious chocolate, said Mark Guiltinan, professor of plant molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University, who collaborated with a large consortium of researchers from around the world. They found 96 genes in the flavonoid pathway; flavonoids are compounds thought to improve artery health and reduce inflammation. Special breeding could increase those flavonoids.

"That would mean we’d be able to get more of these healthy, health-beneficial nutrients from chocolate with eating less chocolate; that’s probably a good thing," Guiltinan said.

In fact, German researchers announced in March that eating as little as a quarter ounce of chocolate per day could lower heart attack and stroke risk. Other research has linked eating cocoa to lowering blood pressure, improving blood vessel function, lowering bad cholesterol (LDL), and increasing good cholesterol (HDL).

Guiltinan and colleagues studied Criollio cacao, a tree that the Maya domesticated about 3,000 years ago in Central America. It used in fine gourmet chocolate, and only in about 5% of commercial chocolate, because of its susceptibility to disease and low production. Chocolate made from it has more flowery, fruity notes than what's in your average candy bar, said Siela Maximova, study co-author and associate professor of horticulture at Penn State.

The genome sequence for this tree could help engineer more disease-resistant cacao, which would help local farmers in developing countries, Guiltinan said. Similarly, the strawberry genome could lead to genetically modified fruits that would help strawberry farmers in the developing world, Folta said.


soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. stephen kendall

    yuke. Some foods are popular, I suppose, but it takes a certain twist of the tongue to stomach this combination.

    December 27, 2010 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • megan

      always make these and everyone loves them!

      December 27, 2010 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • Jolly time

      I think you have to be open minded about food.. there are so many flavors that work well together that might be unexpected.. take Soy Sauce and Vinegar.. this makes such an easy and great flavor for stirfiry's.. in fact I make this one stirfry called Miso honee stirfry that uses this as a base.. I found the recipe in this hilarious, politically incorrect cookbook called.well i won't tell you the name of it cause some of you will freak out at me, but if you google "whipped and beaten culinary works" you can find it.. but seriously.. don't go unless you have a good sense of humor and don't get offended easily... seriously.

      December 27, 2010 at 11:11 | Report abuse |
    • GM FOODS NEED TO BE BANNED!

      NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Enough with raping our foods already! They are perfectly fine the way they are. Stop screwing around with nature. We cannot improve on it and time and time again we have found that when we screw foods up , it leads to greater health problems. BAD BAD IDEA.

      December 27, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      Mankind has been messing with nature since... Well, since we learned that we can.

      Do you have a pet dog? Cat? Nothing natural there.
      Every single thing you eat has been messed with, since farmers have been breeding crops and animals for centuries.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:10 | Report abuse |
  2. cj

    Could they make chocolate LESS healthy so we have to eat MORE of it to get the benefits? I think they are going about this all backwards.

    December 27, 2010 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. dave davenport

    sounds like a "Trojan horse", courtesy of Monsanto, to get people on the GMO bandwagon...don't fall for it...

    December 27, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eve

      I agree. This is complete BS. Stop genetically modifying our foods. Its making is sicker. Monsanto is purely evil.

      December 27, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  4. Steves

    Yep, that's humans for ya. God gives us these perfect little things called strawberrys and man wants *make* them better. Not content much?

    December 27, 2010 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • budgie girl

      Throughout history, it has been the people of this world who are not content that make all the advancements that the rest of the human race enjoys. Let's thank the inventor of the wheel, the inventor of the microwave, and the inventor of the telephone for not being content.

      December 27, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • Newyorker

      I guess you like your macaroni without any cheese. Since God made macaronis are so perfect.
      What a dumb thing to say. You must be dumb.

      December 27, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse |
    • Stop It

      Stop raping our food please. There is a REASON why OUR MILK IS BANNED IN EUROPE AND CANADA! They don't want our foods because its toxic and yet the American public is still allowed to consume it. Look it up people. Even third world countries wont accept our foods because its toxic.

      December 27, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse |
  5. Cole

    Sounds good, but so far taste has been a big miss with modified produce (They actually tend to be less flavorful), so I've low expectations. On chocolate, they've got to come up with a way to keep all the good stuff in milk (and other processed) chocolate.

    December 27, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Our milk is BAD for you

      You mean like pus and hormones? That is what is in our milk. Watch Food Inc. You will never want to drink milk again. Oh and MOST AMERICAN ADULTS are allergic to dairy. It is not just hives and itching. Its stomach problems. Depression. Anxiety. Pain. Food Allergies are VERY VERY common in this country but go undiagnosed for a reason.

      December 27, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      I watched it, and laughed after. I'm not so naive as to fall for propaganda.

      Most people are lactose intolerant, since that's the "natural" thing. It was a mutation that caused lactase to be readily in high amounts throughout one's lifetime. Oh, I'm lactose intolerant, but I take in 2+ glasses of milk a day. That's mostly because I'm not a weeny and I've respect for nature and the human body, which is really good at adapting.

      December 27, 2010 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Cole, but you are falling for propaganda if you think that GM foods are healthy. Do you honestly believe that after years and years of proof that the Food Industry is corrupt and in bed with the politicians constantly lobbying for their benefits and their profits over the public's health, that they all of a sudden care about helping people to be healthier? They don't care. Please research the dangerous implications of GM foods and how they will be our downfall. It is and always has been about PROFITS FIRST. Please don't be so naive.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      Where did I say GM foods are healthy?

      GM foods, far as the end consumer is concerned, is pretty much the same as their non-GM counterparts, and that's science fact. But, if you want to talk about "healthy" I guess I'll bring up canola oil, which is made mostly from GM crops, but is one of the healthiest oils you can use.

      What I actually said was that GM foods, so far, have been down on the flavor scale. Now, am I pro-GM food? Yes and no. I don't have an issue with a lot of GM foods. But, there are some, with the proposed salmon is on top of the list, that I am strongly against. But, I don't make up lies in order to validate my points. For example, with the salmon, I'm against it because it can't be fully controlled and can potentially devastate the natural ecosystem. In addition, salmon is something of a high-end fish and the farm raised variety is pretty yucky since it doesn't have that natural diet high in shellfish.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse |
  6. Ruth

    GMOs are LESS nutritious, and are actually dangerous (see Organic Consumers Association).
    When money drives the food industry,we get such articles that glorify GMOs.

    December 27, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brenda

      Yep. This is a horrible idea. Did you know there is no law that requires these devious food manufacturers to tell you if their product is GM or not? Unbelievable.

      December 27, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      That's outright false.

      Currently, GMO and regular (still modified, by the way) crops have the same nutritional value. That's simply because factors outside of genes (soil, water, temperature, etc.) have a lot to say. Eventually, GMO crops will be more nutritious, which is a very good thing, since they'll be used to support the food supply of areas most in need.

      December 27, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
    • GM FOODS ARE POISON!

      The apple is one of the most perfect natural foods out there. It has numerous health benefits and they are STILL finding out the amazing things the apple is good for. Why do you think they are trying to modify it to prevent it from browning? That is a BAD IDEA. CNN just recently ran an article about this. We need to KNOW when the apple has gone bad to throw it away!!! The whole point is to keep the apples on the shelf longer so they can sell more. Its a horrible idea. Anytime they change the genetic makeup of food , it is to our detriment.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  7. mim

    Oh great, Frankenstein strawberries and chocolate. That bump at the end of my spine is looking more like a tail and that dry skin is looking more like scales. Frankenfood bites big! You never know what you'll end up with when your DNA is altered from eating this junk. Maybe we will learn to breathe underwater too.

    December 27, 2010 at 10:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lawsyes

      I wouldn't mind being able to breathe underwater, personally.

      December 27, 2010 at 10:58 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      So... Eating GMO is going to change your DNA?

      Then, explain to me how you haven't already changed, since you've been eating DNA your entire life.

      December 27, 2010 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
  8. Happysoul

    We don't need genetically modified larger strawberries. With any fruit or vegetable the younger and smaller it is the tastier it is. Our chocolate is already modified with plenty of chemicals so that there's not much chocolate in it.

    December 27, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Newyorker

      Yes, I don't link Frankenberries. They are unhealthy and have no taste. They just make Big Agri rich.

      December 27, 2010 at 11:56 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      The article said:
      "By sequencing the strawberry genome, scientists can learn about how the fruits could be bio-engineered to be..."

      Emphasis on the "could be" part. As in, they haven't done this yet. So, please tell us how you know they are unhealthy and whatnot when THEY DON'T EVEN EXIST yet.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:15 | Report abuse |
    • Cole is misinformed

      They are not doing it for our good. You have to be a complete idiot to think they want to do this for our good. It is all about profits.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:26 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      And where did I say they were doing this for our good? I said that THEY HAVEN'T DONE THIS YET. READ THE ARTICLE. An estimate time frame is 5-10 years before these products hit the market.

      And, by the way, name a company that's doing anything "for our good." That company had better be making 0% profit.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  9. circaeng

    This article is completely backwards. Modified foods have no taste (unless your definition of taste is refined carbs). AND are less nutritious. The problem also is that the more you eat modified/refined foods, the more your body expects and wats this empty refined carbs and fat taste common to all of them. It takes a while to get off this habit. Give organic produce for a year. Your taste will return to normal, your allergies will mostly disappear and you will wonder how you ever managed to eat non-organic food.

    December 27, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. T3chsupport

    I'm sorry, the ADD happened a few sentences in, when I started thinking of the implications of crossing a strawberry with a cocoa plant. That would be AWESOME.

    Like Tomacco, but far tastier.

    December 27, 2010 at 11:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dorothy

      Daddy, this Tomacco tastes like Grandma...

      December 27, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  11. DAT

    Oh, no! They'll probably make them "better" the same way they have already made tomatoes "better" over the years.

    December 27, 2010 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. D

    Great!!! More of what we do not need. Growth Hormones in our diet. Why not have in its natural form without any genetic manipulation? Is that so hard? US has a lot of money. Why not grow fruits and vegetables(No growth hormones, thank you) here, at home and be self sufficient to a certain extent?

    December 27, 2010 at 11:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • M

      This is all done on purpose. Our food industry in America is incredibly corrupt. They are in bed with the Pharmaceutical industry as well. Why is it that we are getting sicker as a nation as our medications are becoming more plentiful? There is a pill for every possible issue. NOT A COINCIDENCE. Please leave our fruits alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      December 27, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse |
    • Cole

      Uh... How the heck did you make the leap from strawberries and cocoa to GH?

      December 27, 2010 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
  13. aida

    Unfortunately I have allergy to both ! besides even if i hadn't have allergy, these artificial strawberries and chocolates are not delicious at all!

    December 27, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      Again, from the article:
      "By sequencing the strawberry genome, scientists can learn about how the fruits could be bio-engineered to be..."

      They don't exist yet. How do you know what is and what isn't?

      December 27, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse |
  14. Dizzyd

    I like frankenberries! I also like count chocula and boo berries too. Yum!

    December 27, 2010 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Brenda

    The article says that studies show quality chocolate can lower heart attack and stroke risk.

    This is a great threat to the hugely powerful Drug Industry that is heavily backed by our FDA. Now that they can study down to the molecule the great benefits of our God-given fruits and vegetables, they want to corrupt our foods to bring them greater profits. More and more people are realizing this.

    Which is more valuable to them: People who PREVENT illness through healthy eating? Or, NOT preventing the illness, getting sick, and being forced to take a host of medications. Please people, wake up. There is a systematic effort to get everyone on medication for all of their ailments. There is no such thing as preventative health care in this country. The MONEY is in treating your symptoms AFTER you get sick.

    December 27, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      No... The article said that the foods MAY be beneficial. But, if you were actually concerned with this stuff, you would already know that dark chocolate, along with other foods with high ORAC values, may be beneficial.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:22 | Report abuse |
    • Steve from LA

      That's right Brenda. Organic foods all the way. Is it a coincidence that packaged mutant imitation garbage foods are in an abundance in poor neighborhoods and they have the most health issues?

      December 27, 2010 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • healthy food

      leave natural food alone. there is plenty of food in the grocery stores that ROT that can be shipped to other countries if they really gave a crap. its not about that.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
  16. A. Nony

    "....make [strawberries] bigger....." Bigger is not necessarily better! Strawberries are huge already, grotesquely huge. A better strawberry would be smaller - like a berry, instead of a deformed apple. Bigger is not better. More and more is not better and better. Less IS more. Fewer is better. Down with junk.

    December 27, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cole

      There are areas in the world where people starve, because there isn't enough food for everyone. Give that area GM crops that have higher yield and more people can be fed.

      That's a bad thing? Perhaps you should think about more than just yourself.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:24 | Report abuse |
    • .

      Dont you like how Cole twists it? No. Many countries in Africa actually REFUSE our foods because it is genetically modified and/or filled with garbage chemicals. They see us dying from cancers at an alarming rate. We are so brainwashed here its astounding. Some people need to get out of this country more and see the REAL WORLD.

      December 27, 2010 at 18:31 | Report abuse |
  17. rak

    Typical Americans. I see a stickingly similarity with the Chinese. We should have never introduced Chocolate to White America. Disgusting!!!

    December 27, 2010 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. D

    This is BS.

    December 27, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Richard Finckle

    Dr Mark Goldberg is my family practicioner and he confirmed much of what this article said to me.

    December 27, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rob

    The paranoia over GMO foods is pretty astounding. I'd say it's a safe bet that the trend is directly related to the horrific state of science-related education in this country. A little learning will do you a lot of good, my friends. GMO foods aren't some sort of monster that lives under your bed. They are safe and effective crops designed for higher yields and better resistance to pests and diseases, for the most part. If everyone insists on growing our human population completely out of control as we currently are, then you have to account for the needs of all those extra people. With a population of just under 7 billion people currently on the Earth and expected to reach 9 billion or more by 2050, we are going to need all the technology we can get in order to feed all of these folks. Don't be scared of things you don't understand. Just take the time to read the research and LEARN. Don't let ignorance be the downfall of our society.

    Rational, effective nutrition for fat loss and long-term health: http://www.NutritionPerfected.com/np-blog.html

    December 28, 2010 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Laurence Girard

    Great article! Medicine needs to start turning more towards the food we eat and less towards the pharmaceutical industry. Poor nutrition is the main cause of heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These diseases could be prevented if the government put more stringent regulations on the foods we eat.So far, they have failed to do so. However, the New York City Department of Public Health did an excellent job banning trans fats from restaurants in NYC. More city public health agencies need to take charge and do the same.

    It's important that people DON'T confuse dark chocolate with milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is healthy and milk chocolate is not healthy. I wrote a detailed article on my blog that discusses the differences between the two! Here it is -> http://applebananacoconut.com/why-is-dark-chocolate-healthier-than-milk-chocolate

    Laurence

    January 2, 2011 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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