Welcome to Snorting Chocolate

People are snorting chocolate in Europe and now in America.


The music’s so loud you’re losing your voice shouting to your friends, the place is filled with throbbing, darting colors, and the whole place is like some fever dream. Over there at that table, people have rolled-up Euro banknotes held up to their noses and lines of powder laid out on the table before them, nearly hidden behind their half-finished drinks, and wait, what? What are they snorting? That looks like…chocolate. It probably is. Just in time for World Chocolate Day — as if every day isn’t Chocolate Day — word reaches the U.S. of one of Europe’s latest trends: snorting cacao powder.

Chocolate is shelled and fermented cacao bean, or “chocolate liquor,” cacao-bean fat, or “cocoa butter,” sugar, lecithin, and — gasp — vanilla.

(VPRO METROPOLIS)

The source of the buzz about the new buzz is one Nick Anderson, CEO and founder of Legal Lean, who’s pushing Coco Loco, the can of the “Infused raw cacao with a special energy blend” he whips up in Orlando, FL. (“Coco Loco” is also the name of an unrelated drink.)

(LEGAL LEAN)

After hearing about chocolate-snotting in Europe, Anderson says he became intrigued, telling the Washington Post, "At first, I was like, 'Is this a hoax? And then I tried it and it was like, OK, this is the future right here." Well, his future, anyway. He decided to invest $10,000 into developing his own “chocolate snuff.” “Some versions, they just burned too much,” he recalls. “Other times they looked gray and dull, or didn’t have enough stimulants.” He wound up combining cacao with gingko biloba, taurine and guarana, which are also ingredients in energy drinks.

Cacao beans (GIULIAN FRISONI)

Anderson says the effects of Coco Loco are “almost like an energy-drink feeling, like you’re euphoric but also motivated to get things done.” Well, hello, gingko biloba, taurine and guarana.

If there’s any cause for concern here it would be those three ingredients, which have been linked in the past with an increase in blood pressure and may cause heart palpitations when ingested. The Post spoke to Dr. Andrew Lane, director of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center, who says that snorting them may increase their effect. “First, it’s not clear how much of each ingredient would be absorbed into the nasal mucus membranes.” He’s also just a little concerned about the potential for gumming up your works: “And, well, putting solid material into your nose — you could imagine it getting stuck in there, or the chocolate mixing with your mucus to create a paste that could block your sinuses.”

What he’s not especially concerned about is this leading to drug-snorting, saying, “If you’re going to do drugs, you probably don’t start with chocolate.” Some chocoholics might disagree.

(CHUCK HESTON)

The FDA hasn’t weighed in on Coco Loco or chocolate snorting in general, spokesman Peter Cassell emailed the Post: “In reaching that decision, FDA will need to evaluate the product labeling, marketing information, and/or any other information pertaining to the product’s intended use.”

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Why birds fly south for the winter—and more about bird migration

What do we see from watching birds move across the country?

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  • A total of eight billion birds migrate across the U.S. in the fall.
  • The birds who migrate to the tropics fair better than the birds who winter in the U.S.
  • Conservationists can arguably use these numbers to encourage the development of better habitats in the U.S., especially if temperatures begin to vary in the south.


The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?

While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.

In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?

Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."

The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.

What does observing eight billion birds mean in practice? To give myself a counterpoint to those numbers, I drove out to the Joppa Flats Education Center in Northern Massachusetts. The Center is a building that sits at the entrance to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and overlooks the Merrimack River, which is what I climbed the stairs up to the observation deck to see.

Once there, I paused. I took a breath. I listened. I looked out into the distance. Tiny flecks Of Bonaparte's Gulls drew small white lines across the length of the river and the wave of the grass toward a nearby city. What appeared to be flecks of double-crested cormorants made their way to the sea. A telescope downstairs enabled me to watch small gull-like birds make their way along the edges of the river, quietly pecking away at food just beneath the surface of the water. This was the experience of watching maybe half a dozen birds over fifteen-to-twenty minutes, which only served to drive home the scale of birds studied.

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Scientists sequence the genome of this threatened species

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.

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  • A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
  • It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
  • Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.

If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.

Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.

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It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.

John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.

Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.