I have high hopes for the Feel Good Chocolate Diet. The diet pill's maker, Irwin Naturals, promises they've loaded their capsules with theobromine, a bitter alkaloid found in the chocolate-producing cacao plant.
"There's a scientific reason behind the euphoric feeling you have after eating pure dark chocolate," reads the copy on the back of the bottle. "Natural Theobromine in chocolate produces an enjoyable ‘feel-good' effect in your brain. This positive feeling can help support your diet goals along with cardiovascular exercise and reduced calorie intake."
Ah yes, Chocolate, savior of the world's fatties. We should have known!
Astonishing dietary claims aside, one thing about chocolate is clear: If a certain "citizens' group" gets its way, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will soon allow chocolate manufacturers to market a slew of lesser substances under the name "chocolate."
Derived from the cacao plant, chocolate has been with us since at least 1100 B.C. Christopher Columbus returned from his voyages with samples of the beans, which were used throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as currency.
No, chocolate needs no introduction. Slightly less well-known, though, is one of chocolate's key ingredients: cocoa butter. Also a product of the cacao plant, cocoa butter not only binds the crushed beans, it also endows chocolate with one of its primary selling points: It's the stuff that actually melts in your mouth.
In other words: No cocoa butter, no chocolate.
But all that could change if the FDA listens to this "citizens' group" which includes, among others, the Chocolate Manufacturers Association and the Grocery Manufacturers Association and alters its chocolate guidelines. These "citizens" are petitioning the FDA to allow them to substitute an unlimited amount of lesser fats like, say, vegetable oil for cocoa butter and still call their product "chocolate." What's more, under the proposed guidelines, the FDA would place no limits on the types of fats that can be used to produce this brave new chocolate.
Of course, none of this means the artisan chocolatiers will vanish, but it does mean that Big Chocolate would be allowed to market cheap and greasy wares with impunity under the imprimatur of chocolate.
The FDA probably won't rule on the matter for some time, but if you'd like to weigh in, you can give them a piece of your mind at www.fda.gov/comments.html.
And even though it won't be the end of the world if the FDA changes its chocolate guidelines, it would be a bitter pill to swallow not unlike the Feel Good Chocolate Diet gel cap that just broke open in my mouth.
Seen a foodstuff you're too timid to try? Malcolm will eat it! E-mail particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org