Chocolate can be consumed in many ways – bars, drink mixes, hot melted fudge on top of an ice cream sundae. Now people can add one more item to the list: A snortable powder.
Last week, Legal Lean, an Orlando-based supplement company, introduced Coco Loko, an "infused cacao snuff" for adults that promises to give you a 30-minute buzz. Legal Lean claims that the drug-free chocolate powder will lift moods, reduce anxiety, and give you a surge of energy, though it's not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Not much is known about Coco Loko's health benefits or risks, nor is there any available data assessing its claims. And that worries Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has urged the FDA to investigate and regulate the snortable cacao powder he alleges is being marketed towards kids.
"This suspect product has no clear health value" Schumer said in a statement, according to Fortune. "I can't think of a single parent who thinks it is a good idea for their children to be snorting over-the-counter stimulants up their noses."
But what exactly is Coco Loko, and how does it affect your body? Here's everything you need to know.
What is Coco Loko?
Coco Loko is a snortable chocolate powder based on a European chocolate-snorting craze, according to the Washington Post. Legal Lean founder Nick Anderson first heard of the trend a few months ago, and after trying a sample, wanted to bring the snortable chocolate to the United States. Legal Lean bills Coco Loko as an energy supplement made of cacao powder mixed with gingko biloba, taurine and guarana — the stuff you find in energy drinks.
How Does Coco Loko Affect the Brain?
Legal Lean claims Coco Loko will cause a rush of endorphins and serotonin, boost energy, and bring about a sense of calm. But the company hasn't provided concrete research to back up those claims. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did discover, however, that raw cacao compounds known as cocoa flavanols may help improve brain power and increase blood circulation. Cacao and cocoa powder are also thought to have antioxidative properties, as well as aphrodisiac and mood-lifting effects.
What Are The Side Effects?
Data doesn't exist on the risks and benefits of Coco Loko. According to ABC News, Anderson didn't consult with medical professionals when creating Coco Loko, nor have scientists tested the snortable snuff before it was released to the public. Instead, the CEO of Legal Lean told ABC News that he "just saw what they were doing in Europe."
The company maintains that they acted responsibly with the product. "We used research data on the market in Europe," a spokesperson for Legal Lean tells Rolling Stone in an email statement. "We have yet to hear of any adverse health issues, and raw cacao products been on the market for over 2 years." Anderson had a similar response for ABC news."There are no health issues ... everyone seems fine," Anderson said. "It says not to do more than half the container, I think everything is self-explanatory, there are warning labels on it and I don't think I would be responsible."
It's worth noting that the FDA is unaware of "any consumer complaints or illnesses associated with this product at this time," according to a statement the agency issued to ABC.
What Do Doctors Think of Coco Loko?
Members of the medical community are generally skeptical of the product. Doctors interviewed by ABC News warned about possible side effects, like increased blood pressure and heart palpitations, that are triggered by other energy supplements using taurine and guarana as ingredients. And in an interview with the Washington Post, Dr. Andrew Lane of the Johns Hopkins Sinus Center also raised concerns over Coco Loko's interaction with the nasal cavity.
"First, it's not clear how much of each ingredient would be absorbed into the nasal mucus membranes. 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," Lane told the paper.
What Does the FDA Say?
A FDA spokesperson told the Washington Post that the government agency has yet to decide if and how it will regulate Coco Loko. The spokesperson also said in a statement that FDA will have to review product labeling and marketing information, among other factors, in order to reach that decision.
But the company has some choice words for Schumer. "Just because something is a new, maybe controversial product for adults that are 18+, does not mean we should jump to regulate it," the Legal Lean spokesperson tells Rolling Stone. "I suggest lawmakers and regulators look at case studies and research data from Europe before they decide to demonize and regulate a brand new product on the market."