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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chocolate & Cocoa: 'Healthy' Benefits, or Negative Health Effects?

Is Chocolate a food of the gods because of its divine taste and Health Benefits,
or is it because heavenly bodies don't have to worry about its Health Hazards?

Stories on the Health Benefits of consuming Cocoa Products have increasingly made the news, following the
discovery that they are a rich source of catechins, which are polyphenols of the flavanol group, and which are
believed to protect against heart disease, cancer, and various other medical conditions.
Chocolate manufacturers, retailers, and the media have been taking advantage of these findings by not only
trying to make chocolate lovers feel less guilty about their addiction, but also by trying to target more health-
conscious consumers with regular doses of "research studies" praising the supposed benefits of consuming
chocolate, among them that:

• eating chocolate does not trigger migraine headaches,
• eating chocolate reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer.
• eating chocolate does not give someone acne or other skin eruptions,
• eating chocolate boosts one's appetite, but does not cause weight gain,
• eating moderate amounts of chocolate makes one live almost a year longer,
• eating chocolate releases endorphins in the brain, which act as pain-relievers,
• the sugar in chocolate may reduce stress, and have calming and pain relieving effect,

How reliable are all these "Studies?"

When taking a closer look, one discovers that once the studies funded by chocolate interest groups were
discarded, the ones left offered conflicting results. As expected, some isolated compounds in cocoa did
however show certain health benefits. Because it is a common practice in nutritional research to do studies
on food fractions, outcomes may sometimes appear negative because they are done without any co-factors
or complexed nutrients, however in the case of cocoa, some of the research was positive because those
"co-factors" (all the other detrimental ingredients in chocolate) were not part of the study.

If people were to consume pure cocoa, they might indeed be able to enjoy a few health benefits, including
a positive effect on blood pressure and glucose metabolism, however the majority of people eat processed
chocolate with all the other less desirable ingredients (i.e. added sugar, corn syrup, milk fats / dairy cream,
hydrogenated oils, etc.), and where the actual cocoa content may be less than 20%, so all the bets regarding
chocolate being a healthy food are off.

With claims made of sugar having a "pain-relieving" effect (babies fed a sucrose solution felt less pain from
needles), it is doubtful that we will see chocolate bars replacing conventional analgesics any time soon, nor
are these same "researchers" making these sugar-promoting claims likely going to reach for a chocolate bar
next time they suffer from a throbbing toothache, a pounding headache, or a kidney stone attack.
While cocoa and sugar do not "cause" acne, the sugar present in chocolate will most certainly make acne,
or any other acne-like skin eruptions worse, as anyone suffering from these skin conditions can attest to.

Placebo-controlled trials showed that some of the chemicals in chocolate (phenylethylamine, theobromine,
or caffeine), can indeed trigger migraines by altering cerebral blood flow and releasing norepinephrine in
some of those prone to suffer from migraine headaches. Of all of the foods isolated that triggered the most
attacks, chocolate was an offender about 30% of the time. Claiming that "eating moderate amounts of
chocolate increases one's life span" is a most interesting example of how some "researchers" will twist and
manipulate statistics to prove anything!

"Chocolate-Is-Good-For-You" campaigns through the media or the prominent placement of leaflets at
confectionery counters keep feeding the consumer "made-to-order" research results whose outcome is pre-
determined to satisfy an agenda (i.e. selling chocolate), with little relevance to science or facts. Considering
that nicotine has also shown some health benefits, particularly with ulcerative colitis and Parkinson's disease,
would this be a reason to urge people to start smoking tobacco?

From a nutritional perspective - chocolate is no less a junk food than ice cream or donuts, and it is equally
unhealthy and fattening when larger amounts are consumed on a regular basis. While no one is trying to dis-
courage people from enjoying an occasional chocolate treat - urging consumers to increase their chocolate
intake for "Health Reasons" leaves nutritional research less than credible, particularly when diabetes and
obesity have become an out-of-control global problem.

Premium grade dark chocolate contains only cocoa butter, a fat that naturally occurs in cocoa beans and
is made up of stearic acid (34%), oleic acid (34%), palmitic acid (25%), and the rest of other fatty acids,
whereby the combined effect of all the fats found in cocoa butter is quite neutral in regard to an individual's
lipid profile. However, when milk chocolate, or lower grade chocolate is consumed, part of the total fat
content of chocolate comes from milk fat or various other types of fat, which do create a risk factor with
cardiovasvular disease.

Despite the good news on cocoa not raising LDL cholesterol, even dark chocolate is a very calorie-dense
food, so while the fat content may not invite cardiovascular disease from an atherogenic (arterial clogging)
perspective, its regular consumption will add a lot of extra calories to someone's daily total, and as a result
still affect those who have to watch their caloric intake. Nevertheless, being listed as the No.1 ingredient in
many chocolate products, sugar is unquestionably a worse culprit compared to the fat content when
addressing the effects of chocolate on someone's overall health.

Sugar is a well-known cause, contributing, or aggravating factor with a host of medical conditions, including
heart disease, inflammatory conditions, immune system disorders, impaired phagocytosis, mood disorders,
insulin and blood sugar disorders, leukemia, dental caries, yeast infections, depletion of essential nutrients,
osteoporosis, obesity, and others. (see also Acu-Cell "Sugar & Glycemic Index").

Cocoa products also contain pharmacological substances such as n-acylethanolamines that are related to
cannabis (marijuana), they contain stimulants such as phenylethylamine, which have an anti-depressant and
amphetamine-like effect; and they contain compounds that stimulate the brain to release an opiate-like
substance called anandamide. When drugs are used to block the brain's opiate receptors, the desire for
chocolate (and other sweet and fatty foods) disappears -- confirming the addictive nature of these types of

But despite cocoa being such an opiate and endorphin-releasing pharmacological powerhouse, who would
have guessed that when chocoholics were given cocoa in capsules - without the added fat and sugar, and
without the feel of chocolate melting in their mouths - it had no satisfying effect at all!
However, while eating the actual chocolate bar satisfied the cravings for it, studies showed that there was no
improvement with mood, relaxation, feeling content, depression, or guilt, after eating chocolate.

What about the cancer and heart-protective attributes of catechins,
which chocolate products have become increasingly associated with?

Again - in isolation, polyphenols work well in a test-tube environment, but cocoa also happens to be very high
in Copper, which unfortunately inhibits the action of certain flavonoids, particularly hesperidin, which is an
essential flavanone (see also Acu-Cell Nutrition "Bioflavonoids"). This in turn can lead to a greater incidence
of vascular degeneration such as varicose veins, hemorrhoids, aneurysms, bruising, heart disease, & stroke.

While low copper levels can be implicated with weak and fragile blood vessels as well, high copper levels
are much more common in many parts of the world, with nearly 90% of patients tested exhibiting a chemical
profile that - in addition to their own unique chemistry - contained an underlying pattern that reflects the impact
of copper overload on various nutrients, which include chromium, molybdenum, nickel, hesperidin, Vitamin C,
sulfur, and others.

The additional consumption of high copper sources such as chocolate and cocoa products, cola drinks,
coffee, (as well as shellfish, liver, soy products, and some nuts and seeds), not only aggravates many high
copper-related medical conditions, but it is responsible for creating new ones. At the same time, copper is
an important co-factor for angiogenesis (new blood vessel formation) with cancer, so with the exception of
colon cancer, for which copper and calcium are somewhat protective for, most other types of malignant or
benign tumors, hemangiomas, fibroids, etc., are associated with high copper levels.

Dark, bitter chocolate has the highest catechin content, but at the same time has also the highest copper
level. Light or milk chocolate has the lowest copper level, but also the lowest catechin content.

* Risk factor for cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health issues, joint degeneration, and other conditions.

The short-term decrease of some medical problems associated with high flavonoid intake is eventually offset
by steadily increasing copper levels, which, by inhibiting flavonoid activity, will over time promote an increase
in these very same conditions.

The high sugar content in chocolate increases Chromium requirements (chromium is an associated trace
mineral to copper). The resulting high copper / low chromium ratio creates an increased risk for trabecular
bone loss, and it can trigger or worsen blood sugar-related, and/or inflammatory conditions that may include
chronic tonsil infections, rheumatoid-types of arthritis, or other problems of the immune system in prone

By lowering Sulfur, high copper levels are a common cause or aggravating factor of osteoarthritis, for which
some people take glucosamine sulfate or MSM supplements. If successful, they partly work by counteracting
high copper levels and thus help to reverse or slow cartilage or joint degeneration. Other than the effect of
chocolate on an individual's mood, elevated copper levels - by inhibiting sulfur - can adversely affect memory
and concentration, so progressive copper storage as a result of long-term high copper intake, combined with
increasingly diminishing sulfur levels can lead to mental impairment or dementia. (see also Acu-Cell Nutrition
"Copper & Chromium" and "Selenium & Sulfur").

Chocolate contains theobromine and a small amount of caffeine, both being stimulants and members of the
methylxanthine family. Although it increases alertness, theobromine doesn't have the same jittery effect on
the heart like caffeine. However, theobromine can be toxic or even lethal to domestic animals such as dogs,
cats, parrots and horses as a result of affecting their kidneys, heart, and central nervous system.

Another concern - particularly for young children - are the high Lead concentrations in manufactured cocoa
and chocolate products, which, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA, 2000), are one of
the highest reported for all food items.

From a clinical perspective, and putting aside the commercial hype that has been created of late to boost the
image of chocolate - people with the highest intake of chocolate either end up with excessive copper levels,
or elevated VLDL triglycerides (from all that sugar). On average, most chocoholic patients test high in both,
and they sooner or later start to exhibit any number of health problems that are associated with those aspects.

As is the case with other junk food - anything beyond a casual consumption of chocolate will result in reduced,
not improved health, without even going into some more immediate health concerns that some individuals
experience from consuming chocolate, such as allergic reactions, kidney stones, fibrocystic breast disease,
heartburn, or esophageal reflux, migraine headaches, or aggravated PMS. Nevertheless - in moderation,
chocolate can certainly be the sinful delight it was meant to be!


NeO said...

its too long.. so i will summarize it for you guys.. Chocolate are not really good for our health.. Its just like other junk food..

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