Main content area

Sin and Pleasure: The History of Chocolate in Medicine

Lippi, Donatella
Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 2015 v.63 no.45 pp. 9936-9941
Theobroma cacao, chocolate, lifestyle, medicine, obesity, physicians, taste, therapeutics, Europe
In ancient Mayan texts cocoa is considered a gift of the gods: Pre-Columbian populations used chocolate as medicine, too. After the discovery of America, chocolate was introduced in Europe, but Christian Europe looked to this new exhilarating drink with extreme suspiciousness and criticism. From this reaction, the necessity derived to appeal to the reasons of health, with which doctors and scientists committed themselves to explain that chocolate was good for the body. However, during the Enlightment, the road of therapy separated from that of taste, and chocolate mainly maintained its leading role of excipient, bearing the burden, over time, of a negative valence, being associated with obesity, dental problems, unhealthy lifestyle, and so forth. The rehabilitation of chocolate has arisen only in recent times, re-establishing that value that Linnaeus himself credited to chocolate, calling the generous plant Theobroma cacao, food of the gods.