Students study effects of chocolate

Three Weber State University undergraduate students want to gain medical companies’ attention with their pioneer research study this month about chocolate.

The project will study the effects of dark chocolate on the human body while simultaneously using docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an oil commonly used as a dietary supplement. Anthony Zenger, Ben Saxey and Ken Cummins, medical laboratory sciences majors conducting the study, hope the results of the study will provide new and useful information to medical companies.

Zenger, Saxey and Cummins created the project’s structure last year and have gained momentum with the help of WSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research.

Zenger, a junior,  said the project’s findings could prove highly relevant to local medical companies.

“DHA  is a fatty acid that is a major component of brain neurons,” Zenger said. “The main source of DHA is fish, and supplementing it in a diet is important for neural cognitive development and maintenance.  A large issue is the side effect of the chemical causing higher levels of fat in the blood, or bad cholesterol. We found through other studies that dark chocolate contains chemicals that might reverse this. Thankfully, there may be a delicious way to counteract these adverse effects. The effects of dark chocolate may be the solution. This could benefit the distributors of the DHA supplements.”

Zenger said that, in spite of its simplicity, this project will be the first of its kind.

“This project has never been done before,” Zenger said. “It will be a first ever experiment using blood-drawing techniques to determine the connection of antioxidant levels to reduce the negative effects of DHA in diet supplements. Cocoa, which is the basis of chocolate, could be a solution to simple side effects of DHA oils.”

A key factor of the study’s success was the trio’s ability to gain support from the university. All three students spent many hours planning and organizing the study in order to obtain assistance from WSU.

“Once WSU’s Office of Undergraduate Research department was on board,” Saxey said, “they helped us through the process and created a larger opportunity for the project to gain more accurate results. We plan to team up with McKay Dee Hospital, as well, to help host the project.”

Cummins also said that, with the right participation, the project has the potential to be highly successful.

“We will need help with the recruiting of participants to take part in the study over four weeks,” Cummins said. “Weber State and McKay Dee will be a great venue for the research. We are excited to get the word out and report the results of the chocolate effects to local medical corporations.”

The collected results of the research project will be reported through ERGO and the National Convention of Undergraduate Research. The results will also be sent to multiple medical companies.