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October 15, 2007

BehindTheMedspeak: The metabonomics of chocoholics


Oooh, joe — "What big words you have."

Never mind.

"Metabonomics is a discipline that uses metabolic profiles of bodily fluids such as blood plasma and urine to understand drug toxicity, pharmacological responsiveness, and other other biological events."

In work published in latest issue of the Journal of Proteome Research (JPR), Sunil Kochhar and colleagues at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland and Imperial College London reported that they were able to characterize — at a molecular level — people who love chocolate and those who don't.

Here's Clive Cookson's summary from the Financial Times.

    Programmed to love chocolate

    People who love chocolate have a different metabolic profile from those who do not. A study by Nestlé, the Swiss food company, and Imperial College London is the first to discover a specific chemical signature linked to food preference.

    The scientists analysed 22 healthy volunteers over a five-day period, during which they ate a controlled diet. Half described themselves as "chocolate desiring" and half as "chocolate indifferent."

    Each group had its own distinct profile of proteins and fats in blood and urine samples taken during the experiment — and each had a different set of gut microbes.

    Sunil Kochhar, the project leader, said: "Our study shows that food preferences, including chocolate, might be programmed into our metabolic system in such a way that the body becomes attuned to a particular diet." More research will be needed to unravel genetic and dietary factors involved in the difference."


Here is my question: How can my body be programmed for an addiction to Cheddar Cheese Pringles when they hadn't even been invented when I was born?

But I digress.

Now that you're warmed up, it's time for the abstract of the journal article, which follows.

    Human Metabolic Phenotypes Link Directly to Specific Dietary Preferences in Healthy Individuals

    Individual human health is determined by a complex interplay between genes, environment, diet, lifestyle, and symbiotic gut microbial activity. Here, we demonstrate a new "nutrimetabonomic" approach in which spectroscopically generated metabolic phenotypes are correlated with behavioral/psychological dietary preference, namely, "chocolate desiring" or "chocolate indifferent". Urinary and plasma metabolic phenotypes are characterized by differential metabolic biomarkers, measured using 1H NMR spectroscopy, including the postprandial lipoprotein profile and gut microbial co-metabolism. These data suggest that specific dietary preferences can influence basal metabolic state and gut microbiome activity that in turn may have long-term health consequences to the host. Nutrimetabonomics appears as a promising approach for the classification of dietary responses in populations and personalized nutritional management.


The JPR chose the work described above as the highlight of its latest issue, and summarized the paper as follows.

    A molecular picture of chocoholics

    With an approach called "nutrimetabonomics", scientists can correlate metabolic phenotypes with a behavioral phenotype. In this JPR research paper, subjects' preferences for rich, creamy chocolate appear to be "imprinted" on their metabonomes. The body (and its associated microflora) seems to become attuned to a particular diet, which can have both positive and negative health consequences, but which also could ultimately open the door to novel dietary regimes. Thus, a person's metabolism could be nudged one way or another.


Finally, Jeffrey M. Perkel offered a "Research Profile" of the work, which appears in the same issue of the JPR as the Kochhar paper; here's Perkel's piece.


October 15, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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I'm convinced that it's the combination of sugar and chocolate that is involved with chocoholism. I bought a Lindt 85% cocoa bar a few days ago after being really, really good for months and steering away from any sort of candy or sweets. Had two pieces over the course of several hours and haven't had any since then. Total carbohydrate count for those two pieces totaled 4g, so rather low on the glycemic index. Not a proper study, but left me to wonder.

Posted by: NotCreativeEnough | Oct 15, 2007 7:54:40 PM

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