Forget penicillin, space travel and the silicon chip. Science is on the verge of its greatest discovery – chocolate that’s good for you. DNA experts are working with sweet giant Mars to create genetically modified chocolate that fights heart disease and diabetes and won’t make you fat. They’ve already been at it for two years. And they claim that in another five, they could unlock the secret of how to make chocolate healthy.
The scientists say the secret lies in the genetic code of the cocoa bean. The beans contain chemicals called flavonols which lower blood pressure and help keep the heart healthy. And the scientists believe they can change the DNA of the cocoa tree so it produces beans with far higher levels of flavonols.
They also hope to produce beans that fight diabetes, as well as making the fat in cocoa much healthier.
Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro, global director of plant science and research at Mars, said:
The idea is that this is something that will become the norm – healthy fats, high levels of flavonols. Chocolate will become something quite different in 10, 15, 20 years, and we are on that track now. It is not something we can deliver tomorrow, but maybe in five years we can.
Dr Shapiro, who is also a professor at the University of California, got £6million from Mars to fund the cocoa DNA project. Computer giant IBM, who analyze the data, and the US Department of Agriculture are also involved. It took two years to disentangle the cocoa tree’s 420 million units of DNA.
Dr Shapiro and his team are now checking all 34,997 of the tree’s genes in a bid to find the ones that will help them make healthy chocolate. Let’s hope they finish their work soon. Then they can move on to chips, crisps, curries and pies.