Posts Tagged ‘addiction’

A night of chocolate at the RiAus

// February 3rd, 2011 // Comments Off on A night of chocolate at the RiAus // Science Communication

Chocolate Truffle

Image by Digital Sextant

Love chocolate? Tonight at Adelaide’s RiAus the spotlight is on gluttony and chocolate addictions.

It’s sold out, but you can watch the livestream here from 6:00 Adelaide time and have your own chocolate tastings at home.

Brendan Somerville from Haighs will talk about what makes chocolate so good. Chocolate has been around since the Aztec’s were big, originating some 3000 years ago in South America. Back then it was a bitter tasting drink, and nowhere near the delight we enjoy today.

Last year the cacao tree genome was sequenced, creating a blueprint of the source of chocolate. With it trees could be altered to become resistant to disease and to produce higher quality chocolate.

As well as using science to improve chocolate, we use it to justify eating just one more piece. Like red wine, chocolate in the right doses can be good for you. The medicinal powers ascribed to the “food of the gods” include:

Chocolate can suppress coughing.
Chocolate can lower blood pressure
Chocolate reduces stress

But there’s a downside, namely sugar and fat and a potential for addiction. The best chocolate to eat is small quantities of very dark chocolate, low in the bad stuff but high in the good stuff. Fortunately this is my favourite.

In the world of Food Porn Daily and Not So Humble Pie, any one of us can become a weapon of mass chocolate consumption. Cravings and addictions aren’t just limited to chocolate, I know for a fact they extend to Banana Caramel Cream Pie, particularly the one at Café Paparizzi in Malvern. So far I’ve managed to resist, but it’s only a matter of time.

Or is it? Dr Robyn Vale is also speaking tonight about how to resist temptation and avoid food cravings.

But purely for medicinal purposes, I think you should have a bit of chocolate while you watch the livestream.

So what are you craving right now?

Mice make morphine, humans might too

// May 16th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Drugs, Recent Research

Image licensed Armin Kübelbeck

A recent study has found that mice are able to turn something normally found in mice brains into morphine.

Morphine is a potent painkiller harvested from opium poppies. We can make it synthetically in the lab, but it’s cheaper to let plants do the hard work. If you haven’t taken morphine, you may have taken its sibling codeine. Codeine in converted to morphine in your liver, so it’s much the same thing albeit in a smaller dose.

For the study they labeled tetrahydropapaveroline (THP) found normally in mice brains. Labeling is often used in molecular biology, you can label things by including rare radioactive atoms, or by sticking another molecule onto the original molecule. It works like a tracking device.

The labeled THP was injected into mice, and out of their urine appeared labeled salutaridine which is a precursor to morphine in the opium poppies.

Then they labeled some synthetic salutaridine and injected it into the mice, and in the urine came out labeled thebaine. Labeled thebaine was injected and finally, lo and behold, labeled morphine appeared.

It took several steps, but the mouse converted THP into morphine. Here’s the kicker, THP is found normally in mice brains AND human brains! So this process could be happening in people. Right now, you could be making your own morphine. Indeed traces of morphine are found in human urine, but until now they weren’t sure if it was something in the diet.

If morphine is made in humans, what is it doing there? It could help control pain, which would explain why our bodies respond so strongly to a dose of morphine.

ResearchBlogging.orgGrobe, N., Lamshoft, M., Orth, R., Drager, B., Kutchan, T., Zenk, M., & Spiteller, M. (2010). Urinary excretion of morphine and biosynthetic precursors in mice Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (18), 8147-8152 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1003423107






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