A Guilty Treat
Two weeks after we reported the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies were working with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on plans to end deforestation in the cocoa supply chain, a new Mighty Earth report highlights the devastating effects malpractice has had on protected national forests. The report claims cocoa production has led to the loss of a quarter of Côte d’Ivoire’s 291,000 acres of protected forest between 2001 and 2014, and ten percent of Ghana’s entire tree cover. Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer of cocoa and the findings in the report mean at least 17 percent of the world’s yearly cocoa production comes from protected areas, with production in Ghana, Indonesia and Latin America also taking place in protected forests. The Cocoa & Forests Initiative aims to eradicate cocoa deforestation and will announce a common framework for action in November. According to the report, ‘the world consumes close to 3 million tons of chocolate and other cocoa products’, with global demand increasing by 2 to 5 percent each year. As the global functional food industry sees such popularity in chocolate with added health benefits, company-led sustainability programs are crucial, as is ensuring cocoa suppliers are members of the World Cocoa Foundation and are farming responsibly.
Interestingly, while the global chocolate market was worth approximately $100 billion in 2015, a new report from Rabobank has found consumers are ditching sugar, ‘adopting low-sugar diets instead of ones that focus just on fats’. The shift from high sugar consumption is an important factor in the changing food industry, and could have ‘long-term ramifications, including a likely slowdown in the worldwide sugar market’. Consumers now see sugar and refined carbohydrates as ‘the main culprits in obesity’ and combined with an increase in global legislation against soft drinks, the industry needs to respond.
More Microbes Identified
A new study published in Nature has identified thousands of new microbial communities in the human body, ‘further[ing] our knowledge of baseline human microbial diversity and enabl[ing] an understanding of personalised microbiome function and dynamics.’ The researchers compiled their study using data from the Human Microbiome Project, analysing 1,631 samples from 265 individuals—by examining the samples at multiple times, they determined which parts of the microbiome fluctuates or stays stable over time. They discovered 54 bacterial species previously unknown to be living in humans, and determined which species make up individual microbiomes and how they then communicate with human cells.
This increased understanding of personalised microbiome function will be beneficial to the researchers examining the impact polyphenols have on gut microbiota—an impact that depends on the polyphenol bioavailability and gut microbiota transformation. The report comments only a small percentage of dietary polyphenols are directly absorbed into the small intestine, with colonic bacteria in the large intestine reacting with the remaining 90 percent—converting them to bioactive compounds which then affect the intestinal ecology and influence host health. The researchers concluded, ‘it is clear dietary polyphenols and their metabolites contribute to the maintenance of gut health by the modulation of the gut microbial balance through the stimulation of the growth of beneficial bacteria and the inhibition of pathogen bacteria, exerting prebiotic-like effects.’ Naturally, further studies are required to better understand the ‘dietary phenolic and gut microbiota relationship’.