Stories tagged candy

Scientists love candy, chocolate, and sweets just like anybody else. Check out these sweet sweet scientific studies.

"Apparently melted" sugar
"Apparently melted" sugarCourtesy Delphine Ménard

Just because everyone knows it's true, doesn't make it so. For centuries, candy makers have wrung their hands over the vagaries of sugar. See, sugar doesn't always melt at the same temperature. Turns out, that's because it's not really melting. It's decomposing.

Check out the article
for more information.

"We saw different results depending on how quickly we heated the sucrose. That led us to believe that molecules were beginning to break down as part of a kinetic process," said Shelly J. Schmidt, a University of Illinois professor of food chemistry.

Schmidt said a true or thermodynamic melting material, which melts at a consistent, repeatable temperature, retains its chemical identity when transitioning from the solid to the liquid state. She and Lee used high-performance liquid chromatography to see if sucrose was sucrose both before and after "melting." It wasn't.

"As soon as we detected melting, decomposition components of sucrose started showing up," she said.

To distinguish "melting" caused by decomposition from thermodynamic melting, the researchers have coined a new name—"apparent melting." Schmidt and her colleagues have shown that glucose and fructose are also apparent melting materials."


Ice cream is a delicious treat on a hot day: provided you DON'T SOAK IT IN ANTIFREEZE!!!
Ice cream is a delicious treat on a hot day: provided you DON'T SOAK IT IN ANTIFREEZE!!!Courtesy Clover_1

Let me start by stating this as clearly as I can:


There, are we all clear on that? Good.

A scientist in Wisconsin has developed an edible antifreeze that will prevent ice crystals from forming in that block of old ice cream you forgot about in the back of your freezer.


The edible antifreeze is made from a fruit enzyme that cuts proteins into smaller pieces and keeps them from freezing. It might also be used to protect meats from “freezer burn.”


We hope you have enjoyed our little discourse on the wonders of food processing.


Crumbling marketshare: Cookies are no longer the top snack food among youngsters. Cookie Monster is demanding a recount in Florida.
Crumbling marketshare: Cookies are no longer the top snack food among youngsters. Cookie Monster is demanding a recount in Florida.Courtesy brainloc on
The cookie is no longer No. 1. Fruit is now the most common snack food consumed by kids ages six and under, according to a new study. NPD Group discovered that youngsters today have much healthier snacking habits than kids did 20-some years ago.

Back in the day, cookies were the most consumed snackible by the younger set with fruit second. But education efforts have flipped those positions, the new study found. It also discovered some other significant diet changes among kids. They are:

• Less likely to have carbonated beverages, ice cream, candy, cake and fruit juice than what kids consumed 20 years ago.

• More likely to be chomping on fruit rolls, gummy snacks, yogurt, cracker, granola bars and bottled water.

Is this a big deal? Nutritionists think so as snack foods make up about one quarter of the calories taken in by youngsters.

And one nutritionist has this new way of thinking of snack foods. Just serve regular food. For instance, a snack might be half a sandwich and a carton of 100% orange juice; bean dip and baby carrots; peanut butter on whole-grain crackers and a small glass of milk; or half a piece of pizza and small glass of milk.

For the record, here are a couple lists showing the biggest movers on the snack food rankings.

The five foods/beverages that have increased the most in the snack diet of young children today compared with young children 20 years ago:

1. Fruit rolls/bars/pieces
2. Yogurt
3. Crackers
4. Bars
5. Bottled water

The five foods/beverages that have decreased the most in the snack diet of young children today compared with young children 20 years ago:

1. Carbonated soft drinks
2. Ice cream
3. Candy
4. Cake
5. Fruit juice

Researchers in Honduras have uncovered evidence of the earliest known use of chocolate. Residues in pottery indicate that some American Indians were fermenting chocolate fruit into an alcoholic drink as much as 2,400 years ago.

Evidence of the most recent use of chocolate can be found in my garbage can pretty much any day of the week.

(If scientists don’t blow it up first.)

Farmers in Brazil have traditionally cut down large swaths of rain forest to plant cacao trees – the source of chocolate. But these high-yield plantations ravaged the rain forest, depleted the land, and suffered numerous outbreaks of disease. A new method of planting, called cabruca, plants cacao trees right inside the rain forest itself. Only a few rain forest tress are cut down – the forest itself remains intact. The forest nourishes the cacao trees and protects them from plantation diseases. And while the amount of chocolate grown in this manner is smaller than can be grown on a plantation, the farmers can make up the difference by charging a higher price for “environmentally friendly chocolate.”


Chocolate love began 3000+ yrs ago
Chocolate love began 3000+ yrs agoCourtesy Fir0002

Food of the gods

The scientific name for the cacao tree is Theobroma cacao—"food of the gods." Research now verifies that we have been enjoying this treat for more than 3000 years. Although cacao is a blend of more than 500 chemical compounds, the signature chemical is a compound called theobromine. The chocolate residue (theobromine) was found in several jars from the site of Puerto Escondido in Honduras.

Scientists used "high performance liquid chromatography coupled to atmospheric-pressure chemical ionization mass spectrometry"

Dated from around 1100 B.C., this is the earliest evidence to date of the use of cacao.

Chocolate ingredients first use was in beer

"Ancient beer makers used the cacao's seedpods to make their drinks. The pods—which were a little smaller than a modern American football—were fermented, and then the pod pulp was used to make the beer."

"It was beer with a high kick," said study author Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at University of California, Berkeley.

"But it would not have tasted anything like the chocolate we have today."

Previous research on "chocolate teapots" dated chocolate drinks to about 2600 years ago.

Click this to read more about the history of chocolate.


Name needed: The apple variety, currently known at the University of Minnesota Arboretum as MN-447, needs a proper name. What do you think this small, sweet and sometimes cracked apple should be called? Send in your suggestion.
Name needed: The apple variety, currently known at the University of Minnesota Arboretum as MN-447, needs a proper name. What do you think this small, sweet and sometimes cracked apple should be called? Send in your suggestion.
A few years ago, actress Gwyneth Paltrow named her new-born son Apple. Now you have the chance to name an apple.

The University of Minnesota is taking suggestions for a more proper name for one of its research apples. It’s currently known as MN-447. And who really wants to go by MN-447, right?

The apple has actually been around for some time, although it hasn’t been put out on the commercial market. It’s a breeding apple that’s been used to create new varieties of apples, including the U’s world-famous Honeycrisp.

According to apple researchers at the U, while it has some great genetic characteristics to pass along to other apples, it isn’t exactly the “apple of the eye” to consumers. It is a smaller apple that often cracks around the top and has a strange flavor that’s been compared to Hawaiian Punch, molasses and sugarcane on steroids.

In taste tests, usually five or ten percent of samplers give it high marks. But it’s exactly that small group, a niche market, that the university wants to provide an apple to. And it wants to market it with a better name than MN-447.

Hmmmmm? What would be some good names for this particular apple? It’s small, very sweet and sometimes a bit cracked. How about “Harpo” after Harpo Marx. Or maybe something more contemporary like “Howie” after Howie Mandel from Deal or No Deal.

You can submit your own name suggestion for MN-447 by clicking in the "What's New" section at through Oct. 31. Here are some of the names that have already been suggested: Tropical Blizzard, Tropical Punch, Arctic Blast, Arctic Oasis, Polar Picnic, Northern Nugget, Hardy Tropical Punch, Tundra Crunch, Nordic Delight, Sugar Cane, Cold Snap, Iceberg.


Yum, yum, eat 'em up!: Photo by jaboobie at Flickr.
Yum, yum, eat 'em up!: Photo by jaboobie at Flickr.
When my mother was pregnant with me she must have been eating a whole lot of junk food according to a new study published by the British Journal of Nutrition.

Researchers at the Royal Veterinary College in Great Britain discovered that pregnant rats that overindulge candy bars, potato chips and other junk food seem to pass those cravings on to their innocent and unsuspecting offspring.

So far, the study only involved rats, but I’m certain my mother is the reason I really crave Lorna Doones® and chocolate donuts.

The female rats in the study were fed either a bland yet nutritious sort of rat chow, or given access to as much tasty junk food as they wanted. The diets were continued in some rats up to birth, and through the breastfeeding period.

When the offspring were divided up, some of the group from the rat chow-only mothers was offered just rat chow to eat; the remainder of that group was mixed in with the offspring from junk food-fed mothers and given the choice of boring rat chow or delicious junk food.

The rat chow-only offspring ate the least amount of food, but for the offspring given a choice evidently too much junk food isn’t enough, especially the babies whose mothers had been fed only junk food. Their offspring preferred the empty-calorie treats and consumed twice as much food as the offspring of chow-only group.

The reason for this, the scientists think, is that the “pleasure chemicals” unleashed by the rat mother when eating high-fat foods may have some sort of effect on the brain of the fetus.

It should be reiterated that the study only has to do with rats. No such study has been done on humans, but I’ll tell, I’d probably be a good study subject. My mom still loves to ingest lots of sweets and I’m not far behind her.

Not good for one's heart: Photo by &y at Flickr Creative Commons.
Not good for one's heart: Photo by &y at Flickr Creative Commons.
Which brings me to another disturbing study, which, in my case, could also be connected to junk food.

University of Texas researchers have determined that having a pot belly –even a fairly small one- increases your risk of heart disease.

"Fat that accumulates around your waist seems to be more biologically active as it secretes inflammatory proteins that contribute to atherosclerotic plaque build-up, whereas fat around your hips doesn't appear to increase risk for cardiovascular disease at all,” according to Professor James de Lemos, the research lead. “Even a small pot belly puts us at higher risk when compared to a flat tummy."

I guess that means I either have to cut down on my junk food intake or ratchet up my exercise regimen.

"What's important is that people consider their body shape as well as their weight,” said June Davison, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation. “Controlling both by eating less and being more active is an effective way to reduce your risk of heart and circulatory disease”

Well, I suppose, but even exercise has some controversy attached to it.

Last week a study stated that even light exercise was beneficial.

But then this week a new study proclaims that workouts must be “tough” to be of any benefit.

Oh, the heck with it. I'm going back to the couch with a bag of donuts on my pot belly and wait for some more agreeable studies to come out.


Cravings story
Pot belly story

Over on the New Scientist's Short Sharp Science blog there is a great little experiment to try. Mix up some hot chocolate and tap your spoon on the bottom of the mug. As you do this the pitch of the tapping sound will change. Why? They don't know yet either. Any guesses?