Dark Chocolate & Artery Function

Dark Chocolate & Artery Function
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What do studies not funded by the chocolate industry show about the effect of cocoa on arterial health?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Chocolate: beauty, or the beast, or both? Although cocoa itself is frequently found in foods like “chocolate which can contain high levels of fat and sugar,” the cocoa powder itself “may have beneficial effects in a number of chronic disease conditions, including [heart] disease.”

Flow-mediated dilation, measured in the main artery of the arm, which is about the same caliber as our coronary arteries, is considered one of the best measures of arterial function—a predictor of cardiovascular mortality. A little bit of cocoa doesn’t do anything. But a little more, or a lot more, gives one a significant boost in arterial function within hours of consumption. How much does it take? Not much—just a teaspoon of natural cocoa powder, which would be like a tablespoon or more of Dutch cocoa.

Now, makes you a little suspicious that the author works in Hershey, Pennsylvania, at the Hershey Medical Center, and, indeed, has accepted money from our largest chocolate manufacturer’s Center for Health and Nutrition, conveniently located near the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues.

Putting together all of the best available science, though—dozens of randomized controlled trials—arterial function was significantly improved within hours, and after weeks and months of chronic cocoa consumption. It’s always difficult to tease out fact from fiction when such powerful financial interests are involved. “Many [of these] studies were funded by industry” as well, “and [as] in all areas of research evidence suggests that industry funding is associated with pro-industry conclusions.” But, even after removing “those studies funded by industry,” they found the same protective effect.

The reason they measure arterial function in the arm, rather than where you really need it—the coronary arteries of the heart—is that that would require an angiogram, which is a little more invasive. But if you were able to find people already scheduled for an angiogram anyway… Here we go.

Double-blind randomized trial finds that dark chocolate actually opens up coronary arteries themselves. And, when they did what’s called a cold-pressor test, where they plunge your hand into a bucket of ice water—which normally causes your arteries to constrict—but, after dark chocolate, they dilated. Dark chocolate may also improve blood flow to the heart of our kidneys.

“Because chocolate also contains fat and sugar,” though, we have to be careful. “Furthermore, most chocolate products are manufactured with milk, a compound known to influence antioxidant…capacity in [our blood].” Even if milk chocolate had the same flavonoid phytonutrient content as dark chocolate, “the antioxidant effect of cocoa is potentially [weakened] in the [blood]” when milk is consumed.

So, not only are there triple the antioxidants in dark, compared to milk, chocolate, but the milk actively works against the effects in the human body. So, eat dark chocolate, and get a nice spike in the antioxidant power of our bloodstream within an hour. Milk chocolate—nothing. And, if you eat that same dark chocolate with a cup of milk, the benefit is suppressed. The “[a]ddition of milk”—either in our stomach, or in the chocolate itself—”inhibits the [within-body] antioxidant activity of chocolate and the absorption into the bloodstream of [one of the target phytonutrients].”

Sugar isn’t good for us, either. Sugar impairs arterial function. One bottle of soda’s worth of sugar can temporarily cripple arterial function. That’s why sugar-free cocoa improves arterial function better than the same amount of cocoa with sugar added. So, “[e]liminating sugar…appears to amplify the beneficial effects of cocoa.”

Bottom line: “Although the positive effects of chocolate and cocoa products seem apparent, precautions exist” when we’re talking about the calories, fat, and sugar in chocolate. Cocoa powder, then, offers the best of both worlds. “Although [not as tasty], cocoa-based products with little or no sugar or…fat are certainly preferred.” And, you can make them tasty, as I note in my healthy chocolate milkshake recipe, and my healthy chocolate ice cream video.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Bob.Fornal via flickr and Bronayur via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Chocolate: beauty, or the beast, or both? Although cocoa itself is frequently found in foods like “chocolate which can contain high levels of fat and sugar,” the cocoa powder itself “may have beneficial effects in a number of chronic disease conditions, including [heart] disease.”

Flow-mediated dilation, measured in the main artery of the arm, which is about the same caliber as our coronary arteries, is considered one of the best measures of arterial function—a predictor of cardiovascular mortality. A little bit of cocoa doesn’t do anything. But a little more, or a lot more, gives one a significant boost in arterial function within hours of consumption. How much does it take? Not much—just a teaspoon of natural cocoa powder, which would be like a tablespoon or more of Dutch cocoa.

Now, makes you a little suspicious that the author works in Hershey, Pennsylvania, at the Hershey Medical Center, and, indeed, has accepted money from our largest chocolate manufacturer’s Center for Health and Nutrition, conveniently located near the intersection of Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues.

Putting together all of the best available science, though—dozens of randomized controlled trials—arterial function was significantly improved within hours, and after weeks and months of chronic cocoa consumption. It’s always difficult to tease out fact from fiction when such powerful financial interests are involved. “Many [of these] studies were funded by industry” as well, “and [as] in all areas of research evidence suggests that industry funding is associated with pro-industry conclusions.” But, even after removing “those studies funded by industry,” they found the same protective effect.

The reason they measure arterial function in the arm, rather than where you really need it—the coronary arteries of the heart—is that that would require an angiogram, which is a little more invasive. But if you were able to find people already scheduled for an angiogram anyway… Here we go.

Double-blind randomized trial finds that dark chocolate actually opens up coronary arteries themselves. And, when they did what’s called a cold-pressor test, where they plunge your hand into a bucket of ice water—which normally causes your arteries to constrict—but, after dark chocolate, they dilated. Dark chocolate may also improve blood flow to the heart of our kidneys.

“Because chocolate also contains fat and sugar,” though, we have to be careful. “Furthermore, most chocolate products are manufactured with milk, a compound known to influence antioxidant…capacity in [our blood].” Even if milk chocolate had the same flavonoid phytonutrient content as dark chocolate, “the antioxidant effect of cocoa is potentially [weakened] in the [blood]” when milk is consumed.

So, not only are there triple the antioxidants in dark, compared to milk, chocolate, but the milk actively works against the effects in the human body. So, eat dark chocolate, and get a nice spike in the antioxidant power of our bloodstream within an hour. Milk chocolate—nothing. And, if you eat that same dark chocolate with a cup of milk, the benefit is suppressed. The “[a]ddition of milk”—either in our stomach, or in the chocolate itself—”inhibits the [within-body] antioxidant activity of chocolate and the absorption into the bloodstream of [one of the target phytonutrients].”

Sugar isn’t good for us, either. Sugar impairs arterial function. One bottle of soda’s worth of sugar can temporarily cripple arterial function. That’s why sugar-free cocoa improves arterial function better than the same amount of cocoa with sugar added. So, “[e]liminating sugar…appears to amplify the beneficial effects of cocoa.”

Bottom line: “Although the positive effects of chocolate and cocoa products seem apparent, precautions exist” when we’re talking about the calories, fat, and sugar in chocolate. Cocoa powder, then, offers the best of both worlds. “Although [not as tasty], cocoa-based products with little or no sugar or…fat are certainly preferred.” And, you can make them tasty, as I note in my healthy chocolate milkshake recipe, and my healthy chocolate ice cream video.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Bob.Fornal via flickr and Bronayur via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

Here are links to the videos I mentioned: Healthy Chocolate Milkshakes and A Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

For more on the corrupting effect of money in nutrition research, see Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Conflicts of Interest.

I’ve covered chocolate before, coming to basically the same conclusion:

What effects do other foods have on arterial function? See:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

151 responses to “Dark Chocolate & Artery Function

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    1. I was wondering about cacao as well. I thought that they had the benefits of the theobromine without the added fat or sugar or even vegan chocolate.




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    2. I wonder about that too. There was a point I ate a couple cacao beans a day because I thought it was good for me but I had been feeling terrible that whole month. I was trying to figure out what is was, then I stopped eating cacao and all my terrible symptoms went away. If I need to use cocoa powder in something, I’ve then switched to Carob. I think its a much better replacement. But I also wonder if it may have the same benefits




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    3. Cacao nibs have a maximum of anti-oxydant as raw. They are excellent in any addition. The inhibition of sugar and cow milk is significant.




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  1. Admittedly without going back to the original data… and not wanting to appear “Lustig-like”… is it the fructose and/or glucose that does the mentioned damage to arteries ? The term “sugar” used throughout the video is not sufficiently specific.




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    1. Yes, great question. Let’s hope someone contributes, and this presents a massive question mark without a precise answer on the sugar….fructose….or glucose.




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    2. Yes, I had a similar question…

      Wonder if anyone has studied endothelial function and/or flow-mediated dilation (FMD) with respect to whether there is any difference between being given strictly glucose or strictly fructose. I suspect fructose, given it gets converted directly to circulating fatty acids by the liver. And if one reads Esselstyn, fatty meals themselves may also impair endothelial function. So, I wonder if, as Lustig et al imply, fructose effectively doubles as fat in the blood, hence similar effect to eating a fatty meal on FMD / endothelial function…




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      1. One wonders, if fructose is involved, whether perhaps uric acid is also involved…

        Seems uric acid may play a role in inhibiting endothelial function and/or nitric oxide production.

        http://www.nature.com/ki/journal/v67/n5/full/4495239a.html

        And one of the byproducts of fructose metabolism is uric acid… So, it may well be that fructose metabolism does in fact contribute to endothelial dysfuction via uric acid production?

        For more on fructose metabolism & uric acid production see Richard Johnson “The Sugar Fix.” He points out that uric acid is produced through fructose metabolism and that it may contribute to gout, among other things. If uric acid plays a role in endothelial dysfunction then maybe in heart disease / atherosclerosis, too?

        http://www.amazon.com/Sugar-Fix-High-Fructose-Fallout-Making/dp/1439101671/




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  2. Here are two more of our favorite chocolate recipes, both using dates as their main or only sweetener, for my fellow (organic, free trade) dark chocolate lovers: Super Seed Chocolate Protein Bites (add 1/4 tsp of cayenne for a little extra antioxidant kick) and Raw Brownies (neither the name nor the picture do these super-rich bad boys justice. I use 3 TBSP maple syrup as the sweetener in the frosting). Enjoy!




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    1. Thank you, those two recipes looks wonderful (I could eat chocolate always, it’s my favourite food) :)

      So I was left browsing for a bit the vegan blog, a lot of good dessert recipes, unfortunately I saw that the use of coconut oil and full fat coconut milk is still all the rage among…. *healthy* eaters.

      I guess more info is needed, there is a lot of conflicting information that made all these people sure that they are eating extremely healthy fats. :S

      And they are clogging their arteries pretty much as if they were taking butter and full cream. I don’t know how we can send the message across.

      And it is not only among vegans, the craze got
      the omnivores long ago, every time I check — I see coconut oil as number one best selling grocery item in amazon uk:

      http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bestsellers/grocery/ref=pd_dp_ts_grocery_1

      (Not everyone uses it as food, but the overwhelming majority do)




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      1. I hope you enjoy them, Thule – it sounds like you will! :-)

        We don’t cook or bake with added fats beyond those found in our whole foods, so I agree with you. (We enjoy a lot of recipes from Susan Voison’s <a href="http://blog.fatfreevegan.comFatFree Vegan Kitchen blog, it’s one you might like if you aren’t familiar with it). I see that coconut oil craze everywhere too. Dr. Greger has a couple of videos about its unhealthy effects – but you’ve probably seen them. :-)




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  3. These studies are so interesting. I try to listen to as many as I can, but it’s hard to know what to make of this information?

    Why nature wants us to eat fruit, it packs it in a nice sweet juicy package, and yet somehow with chocolate, cocoa, it is awful. It is bitter, and hard to get to the point of cocoa powder to begin with. I just think somehow if we were supposed to eat things like this they were either be sweet or we would be genetically prone to like their taste.

    So then, why do we LOVE the taste of chocolate, or even milk chocolate? Coffee is another one. I have to wonder if these discussions are a vestige of the ancient system that got people to buy these rare extracts to begin with when they were very valuable commodities and had to be carted all around the world. A mystique must have developed around them and people tend to work off that to justify it or make it seem like the thing to do in order to boost the price and volume.

    I’m also curious about the artery dilating effects of stuff … we hear that cocoa helps open the arteries … but for how long? Why do we care?

    Don’t mean to be flippant, but of what use is it to use “permanently” that our arteries can be opened by eating something, and for how long does this effect last? Do we need to constantly eat cocoa powder to maintain healthy arteries … should we be using cocoa as a medicine, given 4 times a day?

    This is what I mean … I don’t understand the real point of these studies except just to say as an of interest, cocoa opens your arteries for a certain period of time. Why is that notable, what does it mean for my overall health. It makes me feel sometimes like we are just being marketed too constantly by every aspect of everything?




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    1. Chocolate, caffeine, sugar, heroin, alcohol – THAT’s why we love chocolate. It’s addictive. Hits the pleasure center of the brain. A little dopamine?




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      1. I am not sure I love chocolate for any chemical properties … I would not eat it at all if it was only available as cocoa powder … I just like the taste. Does that mean anything I like hits my pleasure center of the brain as is addictive?




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        1. You wouldn’t eat just the powder ’cause the powder hasn’t added sugar or milk, both of which dope up your brain with pleasure chemicals. Seriously, look up Lustig (Sugar: the Bitter Truth), Neal Barnard, Richard Johnson (The Sugar Fix), etc.




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    2. I could not have said it better. And raw fruit and vegetables have been known to have the same positive effect that chocolate has on opening arteries.

      As an aside, chocolate has a host of anti-nutrients to go along with it.




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    3. Well, this can be pretty practical if you ask me. Improved blood flow even for a few hours might mean better physical/mental/sexual performance depending on where the “arterial bottle neck” is. Regular (and spread throughout the day – cocoa in the am, greens for lunch, walnuts in the pm etc) consumption of endothelium-friendly food might mean a dramatic difference in overall arterial condition of any person, even relatively healthy one.
      Regarding bitterness, it’s kind of usual for humans to get hooked on stuff which isn’t so nice at the first try, but then seduces the brain via some pleasure reward loop – tobacco, chili pepper, garlic, horror movies… :) I share the concern that if smth is not momentarily enjoyable it can be bad for us, yet these 3 stimulant drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa) do have a pretty substantial body of evidence concerning brain health and deserve the best of attention (and perhaps at least moderate consumption) at least for the promise of lesser chances to get Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
      (




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    4. Lol! I know why I drink coffee and it’s not for the mystique ;) For someone who doesn’t drink it very often, the effect is like a very mild dose of cocaine with some prozac while listening to a motivational speach set to a Beach Boys soundtrack.

      I think the beauty of these studies is that being modern humans, our bodies are conveniently set up to receive medicine 4x daily: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. Studies like this remind us we have the choice to continually expose ourselves to either medicinal foods or those that are either useless or harmful. You don’t have to consume every “superfood” at every meal, but if you have to eat something, isn’t it useful to know that certain foods are therapeutic? If you’re going to eat anyway, you might as well eat something that makes your arteries say ahhhh.




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    5. We like chocolate because it has sugar in it. Also, milk chocolate because it has sugar AND milk protein (casein), which may convert into casomorphins (essentially an opiate, albeit in small quantities). Thus we get a small high and we get addicted to the “good feeling.” Not sure if the natural caffeine adds to the effect or not? Dunno…

      I think it was Neal Barnard who talked about this? Why we’re addicted to meat, cheese, dairy, sugar, etc.




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  4. Thanks as always for the information Dr. Greger. I myself add a heaping tablespoon of cacao nibs to my morning smoothie: 1/2 pound kale, 1 cup frozen berries, 2 bananas, 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, and 3 cups water.




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  5. Caveat: Soy milk acts like cow milk in suppressing the antioxidant activity of chocolate/cocoa. We currently mix our cocoa powder with almond milk. Hopefully, this is fine seeing as we have no data on this yet.




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  6. What about theobromine in cocoa? Isn’t that a mild stimulant and slightly additive? I would think there are healthier foods to aid in arterial function.




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    1. Health Benefits of TheobromineTheobromine has a similar effect than caffeine, but about 10 times weaker. Theobromine has diuretic, stimulant and relaxing effects. Theobromine can lower the blood pressure because it can to dilate blood vessels.
      Theobromine has stimulant properties, similar to caffeine. Unlike caffeine theobromine does not affect the central nervous system.
      Theobromine can also relax bronchi muscles in the lungs. Theobromine can be used as cough medicine. Studies indicate that theobromine acts on the vagus nerve, which runs from the lungs to the brain. http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/theobromine.php Have read that over 1000mg per day for humans is the upper limit.




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    2. I actually discovered that dark choco, devoid of soy and dairy, helps my mild asthma. I don’t need to take Theophylline (theobromine messed with by Big Pharma). I have told several other fellow-asthmatics and they are also enjoying their “medicine” now.




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  7. Dr. Greger! Another great video, thanks! My husband has atherosclerosis & our diet is no-oil & plant-based. Would using erythritol or xylitol instead of date sugar be preferable and do you have an tempting brownie recipe for us all? Many thanks!




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      1. Domestic animals metabolize theobromine much more slowly than humans and can easily consume enough chocolate to cause chocolate poisoning. The toxic dose for cats is even lower than for dogs. However, cats are less prone to eating chocolate




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  8. About sugar and CVD, this 2014 study remarkably showed that increasing intake of added sugars by just 4% of calories (2 ½ Tbsp, or 8 oz. of soda in a 2000 Cal diet) was associated with statistically significant increases in cardiac mortality, even after a host of adjustments for other lifestyle habits. The 10% of the population that consumed the most added sugar (> 25% E) had twice the risk of those consuming < 10%.

    How do the Kuna Indians of Panama get all the benefits of cocoa flavonols without the saturated fats and added sugars? They start with raw cocoa (that hasn’t been treated with alkali or roasted), grind and boil it with banana, then pass it through a strainer (which removes the cocoa & banana solids and most of the saturated fat).




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        1. I looked up glycine bulk powder on amazon, it seems it’s made in China, which worries me. The company says they “triple test it” but I have a hard time taking their word for it. Because the industry is unregulated they can get away with saying they test it and it could still have heavy metals in it. I would like to try it and see if it improves sleep like everyone is saying it does.




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          1. Some is U.S. produced (1, 2), and the USP grade that accounts for 85% of the market is subject to testing for metals etc. and used in human foods. Mine comes from a supplement brand well regarded at ConsumerLab, and isn’t the absolute cheapest. Overall, its wise to be wary of supplement claims. I take some but will readily admit I’m conducting an n=1 experiment and can do the literature searches for adverse reports.




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            1. I found one on amazon that is USP & FCC Pharmaceutical Grade. I think it might be the same one you have. It’s made by Dual Health.




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      1. I use monk fruit (the real kind, not the fake ones with just a tiny bit of monk fruit and a ton of sugar). I just started using monk fruit; I bought it from amazon from a farm in Indiana (never trust anything from China).




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      1. I’d focus more on guaranteeing your magnesium intake.
        Pepita or pumpkin seeds do the trick together with greens.




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    1. Our bodies run on sugar, its sitting on your butt eating sugar while lining your bloodvessels with fat what is the problem.

      The indians do a lot of walking compared to TV junkies.
      That makes cells pull the circulating nutrients from your blood, clearing it up.

      Those indian will not be in the habit of throwing away free energy btw. That fat will most certainly be consumed one way or the other.




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      1. Even Dr. Lustig notes the adverse effects of high-fructose diets occur when livers are glycogen replete (ie, in sedentary individuals). However, that represents a lot of us. Earn your sugar.

        With respect to the San Blas Islands dwelling Kuna, who don’t develop hypertension as their urban dwelling relatives do, the one study assessing their overall diet found it to be high in magnesium, potassium, and relatively low in fat (which should help), but also high in cholesterol and sodium (which shouldn’t), which lead to the interest in cocoa and how they drink it. Their traditional cocoa drinks are indeed fairly high in sugars (7-10%), but very low in the palmitic and stearic fats that dominate cocoa (0.1-0.4%), so presumably most is strained out with the cocoa and banana (or corn) solids. The 1 ½ hours they spend boiling the mixtures would provide a lot of time to earn our sugar.




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        1. While gaining weight from end november till now my chronic but never treated hypertention (160-120 fat – 140 – 100 lean) dropped to 110 – 70 a month ago. A very tiny dose of clonedine 0.25ugr for PTSD/ADHD dropped that ten points more 100 – 60 to a level I couldn’t go to the gym with anymore without feeling faint almost immediately.

          In any case a WFPB diet caused a 30 point drop in half a year while still eating canned corn, beans and beets together with 100 grams easy of salted peanuts. (For taste and Palmitoylethanolamide anti IC like pain trial which started to drive me nuts past few years. Peanuts being the cheapest source). And a occational bag of tortilla chips.

          Still a pretty hefty salt load by any calculation.
          Cannot come to any other conclusion high BP is mostly caused by something else than salt.

          I’ve been on a war on arteroscleroses ever since December and its pretty clear that endothelial function is being restored in a pretty dramatic way.

          I consume pretty hefty fructose loads to I might add. Fruit covering a third easy of what I consume on a day. Apple, orange, lemon, banana, kiwi, sugared cranberries , currants and frozen fruits daily.




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          1. Consumerlab just reported that with only one exception all cocoa powder tested had cadmium and lead contamination exceeding toxic levels. What’s a healthy vegan to do?




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    2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Dr. Esselstyn has been commenting about sugar but didn’t define in what forms – outside the processed. This is the first time I saw the study referred to.




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  9. I’m sorry to bother everyone, but I can’t find the link for the good doctor’s healthy chocolate ice cream video. Help please?




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      1. When you click on the above link to bring up the transcript of his video, the last sentence says:

        “And you can make them tasty as I note in my healthy chocolate milkshake recipe, and my healthy chocolate ice cream video.”

        That’s the chocolate ice cream video I was asking about. I can’t find it anywhere. Your link brings me to his “healthy chocolate milkshake recipe, but it’s a head scratcher as to where the ice cream video is.




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      2. What other foods are good for endothelial function. and hypertension? Already on a low fat, whole food plant based diet (WFPB). Due to acid reflux, L.P.R. or silent reflux, am trying to avoid chocolate and coffee. According to Dr Koufan (“Dropping Acid, the reflux diet”), chocolate causes more reflux than any other food. Triple whammy: contains caffeine and theobromine, which relaxed the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), high in fat which also causes reflux, and high in cocoa which causes reflux.




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        1. Hi mike,

          Do you like oatmeal? The avenanthramides in oats are also known to increase NO production which increases arterial dilation and lowers blood pressure. They also prevent LDL oxidation, and inhibit SMC proliferation and adhesion of inflammatory blood cells to vessel walls. Even if you don’t like oatmeal, there’s granola or granola bars (just watch the oil and sugar content), flax/chia/oat no-bake bars or balls, adding it to smoothies, and use in savory concoctions like bean burgers, loaves etc.

          Also as an aside, I dealt with some serious reflux issues some years ago as a result of overprescribed NSAIDs. Powdered slippery elm bark helped me more than any prescription over the counter products the doctors recommended. Tastes like cardboard but it smells like maple syrup :) More importantly, it worked.




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      1. Ben, yup, looks like this is it! Thanks so much.

        You could probably take the almond milk and freeze it as an almond milk cube, and use that in the blend mix, thereby not needing to put the mix in the freezer.




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      2. I tried this without the berries and with homemade almond ‘milk’. Surprisingly it was ok – actually edible. I used 3/4 cup of almonds to approx 1 and 1/2 cups of water. After blending the ingredients the mixture was strained and heated to boiling, thus enabling the mixture to thicken. The texture of the final product could be improved with the addition of gums/starches (agar, LBG/xanthan gum, arrowroot starch maybe even oatmeal or brown rice flour etc etc).




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    1. Thank you to everyone who helped me out here.

      We do currently freeze whole bananas in the peel. After frozen, we take them out of the freezer and drop them in hot tap water for about 45 seconds to a minute. Then the peels come off like a glove. Into the Vitamix blender they go. Sometimes adding some nuts or other frozen fruit, and sometimes roasted carob powder.

      But, now that I know how healthy the raw chocolate is, we’ll be using that, especially since my wife is a true chocolate addict.




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      1. Crama: I learned a trick from you. I’ve frozen ripe bananas before, but never in the skin. I’m guessing that you do it in the skin to prevent discoloration? Neat trick.




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        1. I’ll tell you how it happened. We used to peel the bananas, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them; then after freezing, put them in a ziploc bag. One day I was either in a hurry or lazy, and just stuck them in the freezer. When I went to use them, I said to myself, how am I going to get the skin off? The bowel of hot water was the only solution. And, we’ve been doing it that way ever since.

          Basically, what you’re doing is melting or thawing the banana just under the skin, maybe around a 1/16 inch or less in from the underside of the skin. Then, the softened banana acts like a lubricant to aid in the removal of the skin. It takes only seconds to remove.

          The skin does seem to protect the banana better than just a plastic bag, with no discoloration, or freezer burn.

          Of course, if you freeze really ripe bananas, then they will be darker. But the freezing won’t darken them anymore than from when you put them in.




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    1. Here’s a recent video from Dr. Greger on cadmium in plant food http://nutritionfacts.org/video/cadmium-and-cancer-plant-vs-animal-foods/

      There is some discussion in the comments about cacao – it’s not specifically addressed in the video but it is a plant food. The link you posted suggests that cacao nibs have lower levels of cadmium. I recall reading that CL report when they published it in May and being disappointed because they didn’t test cacao nibs but there were a few supplements / powders on the list that CL tested below threshold for cadmium, arsenic and lead.




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  10. Another great video. Once I went vegan and gluten free the last three months I have gotten so many great benefits. I was able to cure my hashimoto’s and finally started losing weight. Haven’t felt this good in a long time. Life is a lot simpler too since I don’t waste much time in the kitchen. Breakfast and lunch are green smoothies and dinner is beans+rice. I tell everyone I know to watch Dr. Greger’s videos!




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    1. I am so curious about your thyroid issue. Were you on Synthroid and then didn’t need it anymore after your diet changes? I am vegan and gluten free also and we are having a hard time finding the right dose. My thyroid medication has been cut in half over the last 18 months.




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      1. Yes, I was on 50 mcg synthroid, Then cut it down to 25 mcg. Finally went off it completely. Was never sure I even had Hashi’s. My doc just said I did without running labs after my TSH was high (around 6). I ran labs on my own over a period of months; I didn’t even have antibodies present, but I had high reverse T3. I highly recommend reading Izabella Wentz’s book on Hashimoto’s. It helped me a lot in terms of supplements to take.




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        1. I find it all so interesting. I have been on Synthroid for many years (18) and I was on 200 mcg which is a lot for someone my size. My TSH was originally 750 so I had all the symptoms of hair loss etc. It happens after childbirth sometimes. (750 is correct-not 7)

          Anyhow what I find so interesting is that since becoming vegan 2 years ago my medication has reduced to 120 mcg. I wonder how low the medication will go. It takes so long for the levels to adjust that the process is crazy. It goes on and on!

          I try and stay away from supplements. I do best with a WFPB diet. (yes on B12)




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    2. Same here. I must have shared this site with 40 – 50 people already. And I’ll make the time to tell them of a lot about it and its content immediately if they want to hear it.

      Even today a nice lady commented on my healthy lineup of foods.
      The first time in a month I bought steak a vegetarian commends me on my choice of food :) I gave her the site details immediately.

      Keep up the crusade Dr. Greger, the world needs you!




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  11. Dr. G, Do you have any concerns about cadmium, lead or other heavy metals found in certain Cocoa products? Consumer Lab released test results for cacao products. Navitas Natural (organic) Cacao Powder, and NOW Certified Organic Cacao Powder both failed because of cadmium contamination [1]. Both contained amounts around three times higher than the limit suggested by WHO. I tossed my tossed Navitas cacao nibs.

    Another study cited lead in chocolate as a particular concern for children: Talanta. 2014 Feb 15;119:1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2013.10.048. Epub2013 Oct 28. Trace elements in cocoa solids and chocolate: an ICPMS study.
    Yanus RL1, Sela H2, Borojovich EJ2, Zakon Y3, Saphier M2, Nikolski A2,
    Gutflais E2, Lorber A2, Karpas Z2.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this topic. I’ve switched to Carob until you green light Cocoa for me again.




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  12. There is one point I’d like to mention on cocoa.
    It can help further disrupt unbalanced brain chemistry.

    It was one of the first health foods I started with in november.

    Now I’ve always been a manic depressive type but massive doses of cocoa combined with a quite moderate dose of dex-amfetamine for my ADHD plus the pure enthusiasm of all the interesting info on this site combined to pure and uncontrollable manic behaviour.

    Cause me to pour my heart out out on a dutch vegan forum in a way I haven’t experienced before in my life appart from maybe the times I took extacy in my late teens early twenties.

    This manic episode died off after stopping cocoa december 15th then started using it with my coffee again 2 weeks later and back was the manic drive.

    This might be something to watch out for. Being manic feels nice sure enough but it comes at great cost through loss off inhibition or the burden off depression one needs to suffer after.

    I sure for one would like to see my posts deleted thats for sure. (the price of inhibition loss). In the end I got kicked and can’t logg in there anymore. Guess I’ll have to live with it.

    Regards.




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    1. Arjan: I’m sorry to hear that happened to you. I can imagine how frustrating the whole situation is. On the plus side, you figured out a trigger. That’s great. Good luck.




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    2. Arjan this is a great post! I got a little chuckle. It’s funny but I find when I put green tea leaves in my smoothies I get this nice energy that is just perfect! And it lasts longer than coffee.




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      1. Thanks!

        When I cook my oats/quinoa/fenugreek/sweet potatoe starch base for later mixing with frozen fruits, i’ll add any cold mixed white tea/lemon water if I haven’t consumed it within two days. Nice and fresh, good for breakfast.

        White tea soaked for a day cold is a bad thing to drink before bed seems stronger than coffee on top of longer effect like you mentioned. Maybe 2.5 gr per Liter is to much ^^

        Doing this almost vegan stuff with the renewed energy comes with crippling insomnia lately. Have slept maybe 4 hours average for the past 6 weeks or so. Its really getting insufferable. Suffered actual sports injuries through nervous system exhaustion and less than optimal muscle control. Really annoying!




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        1. No I don’t but I will tell you that the longer you are eating a WFPB diet the more changes you will notice. Sleeping problems are one of those very annoying things.




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  13. On a different topic…Walter Willet of Harvard is now saying that eating fruit and veg does not reduce cancer and diet plays less of a role in cancer prevention than previously thought. What is your take on this Dr Greger?




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  14. I am a bit confused, sorry. It’s crystal clear that pure cocoa is the best, fine. But what about dark chocolate? In this video some of the studies shown were using cocoa/dark chocolate, but we don’t know the different effect of the two. What if we eat 80% or more dark chocolate? It should be almost like pure cocoa, since this is 90% or so.

    I mean, we can introduce cocoa easily in the breakfast for example, or for a snakc when we are at home., but it’s even easier to advice people to consume dark chocolate (maybe with some nuts…), since this can be eaten alone, and do not require other things.

    And what about mixing cocoa with soymilk? Shouldn’t this also inhibit the antioxidant ability of cocoa?




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    1. In the authors’ own words, you are making mountains out of molehills:

      “Potential limitations of our results are due to the fact that the
      survey was based on cross-sectional data. Therefore, no statements can be made whether the poorer health in vegetarians in our study is caused by their dietary habit or if they consume this form of diet due to their poorer health status.”

      If you look at some of the health outcomes which they link with the vegetarian group in this particular context (Austria), you see some likely channels of self-selection which can imply poor health: allergies, cancer, and suspicion of vaccinations.




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  15. Great news about cocoa. Give us the pure cocoa chocolate please. The mainstream chocolates are awful, contaminated with dairy and artificial. There’s no need for the latter at all; pure is better in every way.




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    1. It is really that hard to find decent chocolate in the US?

      I’m quite a dark chocolate afficionado and as it is very popular in Germany, there are a lot of brands to choose from which have 70-100% cocoa. I always look at the ingredient list and the only thing that’s occasionally there which IMO doesn’t belong into a dark chocolate is butter fat. Most brands though have only soy lecithin and/or vanillin added. The premium brands have only real vanilla extract added, if anything. So even as a purist or vegan it is easy to find a decent dark chocolate here, no need to complain :)

      By the way I don’t think that the saturated fat in dark chocolate is much of an issue (if you don’t eat it by the pound), because cocoa butter is mostly 18:0 stearic acid, which is the most benign of all long-chain saturated fatty acids as most of it is actually metabolized to 18:1 oleic acid by desaturase enzymes.




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  16. Jeanne Calment ate nearly one kilogram (2.2 lb) of chocolate every week. The French paradox may be in the dark chocolate and the different way the French use it




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  17. Many anti chocolate sites warn about the insect parts and rodent droppings and hairs contained in the cocoa powder/chocolate. There is a site that says that this is myth except for in really cheap stuff. Be interesting to know if this is so and if it applies to any popular brands?




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  18. Yea, chokko (cacao ) is all good only dogs die shortly after consuming it! Same can happen to a toddler if portion is oversized. Theobromine inside choko and cacao is a strong narcotic substance with neurotoxic properties.




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  19. Hey Dr. Greger,

    I have noticed you have never done a video on cacoa NIBS. Supposedly it is the best, being absent of sugar and virtually raw…with the exception of it retaining it fat. Any thoughts?




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  20. Is lead reportedly found in chocolate products a legitimate health concern? Simply Google chocolate lead danger for reports. Is powdered cocoa less risky? Why do they call it cacao vs cocoa, and in Quebec the English name is Cocoa while the French name is cacao. I guess the cocoa is more refined.




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  21. Interesting that sugar impairs endothelial function. Doesn’t the BART test also show that fatty meals impair arterial function?

    I wonder, in the case of sugar, do we know WHY endothelial function or flow-mediated dilation (FMD) is impaired? Do we yet know the specific mechanism by which such impairment occurs? Either via fatty food or sugary foods?

    Also, you say “sugar” but don’t specify what KIND of sugar… Are you talking, HFCS (broken up glucose/fructose in solution), sucrose (bound glucose/fructose; though it gets broken up in digestion), glucose or fructose?

    Do we know whether the “sugar endothelial/FMD impairment” happens if the individual is fed *STRICTLY glucose* or *STRICTLY fructose* (to see if one or the other is a culprit on its own; I lightly suspect fructose, possibly via being converted to fatty acids/triglycerides, mimicking fatty meals)?

    I guess I’m wondering if certain grain-based or oat-based “milks” [preferably without added oils] would similarly [to “sugar,” if one means sucrose] negate the benefits of cocoa powder or whether they’d be okay to use with cocoa powder like unsweetened soy milk is (given that grain or oat based milks are probably starch / glucose based and low in or free from fructose). Under the theory that maybe fructose is a culprit and thus using an un-sweetened, un-oiled glucose-based milk (made from grains or oats) would be okay, given there was no fructose added.

    Don’t know if anyone’s tunneled down to that level of detail yet? But I’d be itnerested to know the results if anyone ever does…




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  22. I just started looking at the saturated fat in all food, mostly to keep it low. Hot Chocolate or just plain Chocolate Powder is very high in saturated fat.

    As you said in the past saturated fat is bad, and it’s easy to eat a lot of saturated fat with chocolate powders. Is this all Chocolate Powder?
    I am pretty sure that most chocolate powder is bad for ones health now or am I missing something?




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    1. Stephen, Prior to seeing your post, I understood that unsweetened cocoa powder could be thought of as dried cocoa beans with most of the fat removed. However, I decided to do some research before I commented and saw from the link below that cocoa powder has 7 grams saturated fat! What?!?!
      http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/5471/2

      But then I noticed that the default serving size is 1 cup. No one eats 1 cup of cocoa powder in a serving, or in a day. Note that you can change the serving size. I think a more practical amount for a serving of unsweatened cocoa powder is 1 tablespoon. And at one 1 tablespoon, there is so little saturated fat, that the amount shows up as zero. And as Dr. Greger explains in the video above, it doesn’t take much to get a lot of benefit from cocoa powder: about 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon depending on which type you are eating.

      Getting back to topic of the amount of saturated fat in cocoa powder, I think it is helpful to compare to the amount of saturated fat in a really good quality, high cocoa content dark chocolate. So, I looked here:
      http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/10638/2
      And set the serving size to 1 ounce. An ounce is about 2 tablespoons. Which means that 1 tablespoon of actual chocolate (as opposed to cocoa powder) is about 3.5 grams saturated fat. This seems to support my original understanding that cocoa powder is cocoa beans with most of the fat removed (though not fully as much as I had thought, dang it).

      To give you one more idea for perspective: Dr. Greger does say to stay away from saturated fats, and rightly so. The science supports that advice in general. However, there does appear to be some exceptions. For example, Dr. Greger does support eating nuts, including walnuts. Walnuts according to the following link contain 1 gram saturated fat per ounce. And Dr. Greger would recommend even 2 ounces nuts and seeds per day. So, even if cocoa powder had 0.5 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, you would be getting less than if you ate the nuts.
      http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3137/2

      Here’s how I put it all together in my head: It helps to think about individual components in food sometimes, but worrying just about saturated fat without considering the whole food is a mistake. The science seems to strongly support eating 1-2 ounces of nuts and maybe a 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder per day. So, even if it makes sense to be concerned about and monitor saturated fat in general, it doesn’t make sense to avoid foods that have been well proven/supported by the evidence to be healthy.

      Hope that helps.




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  23. Consumerlabs.org (membership requied) has been testing cocoa and chocolate bars for the past year and have found that most of cocoas and all of the chocolate bars test positive for Cadmium and Lead. Can Dr. Greger shed any light on this?




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    1. Yes! Consumer Labs did extensive cocoa testing and indeed found problems with cadmium, lead or both. They continue to test brands. As soon as they come up with one that’s clean we’ll let everyone know. Other site users are posting about this on the latest video on dark chocolate. Thanks for mentioning and bring it to our attention even though I am a bit late replying :-)

      Please stay tuned, raybo! Consider keeping up with the new videos posted every weekday and subscribe to the daily video feed.

      Best,
      Joseph




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  24. dr greger–

    I am getting very thin on this
    vegan/vegetusian diet so that my butt bones bang when I sit down on a
    hard seat. Should I start eating chocolate to add a little padding?




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  25. If sugar inhibits arterial function, then when I am running a long race, am I shooting myself in the foot by sucking down gel shots, which are mostly sugar? What should I ingest at mile 20 of a marathon to keep from crashing then?




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    1. Kaushal: I think you just have to try some chocolates. Most dark chocolates are vegan. But everyone has different preferences for brands. I used to throw chocolate tasting parties where people did blind taste tests of various high percentage dark (vegan) chocolates. People definitely had different tastes. So, I would recommend experimenting to see what you like.

      And I would recommend keeping in mind that much chocolate in the world is produced from child slave labor. So, if you can experiment with chocolate that is likely not from child slave labor, all the better. If you would like to learn more about the story and “safe” brands:
      the story: http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/
      safe brands: http://www.foodispower.org/chocolate-list/

      Hope this helps.




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  26. I’m trying to get into health and nutrition. Is it right that with the use of organic food we can increase energy? I want to know whether having dark chocolates affect my health. I have been using the products from the organic food stores(Giddy Yo Yo) which is online in Canada with one of my friends suggestion. I was wondering what’s your opinion on cocoa nibs, or roasted cocoa nibs? Do they have the same effect? I want to know the only difference between organic food and regular food?




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    1. James: NutritionFacts recently did a series on organic plant foods. You should be able to find those videos by doing to a search at the top of the page. I don’t know how to direct you to the beginning of the series, though, so you may have to keep clicking “previous” video (a button on the right side of the screen below the video) to find the beginning once you find one of the ones in the series.
      .
      Also, NutritionFact has a series on chocolate. A good number of your questions may be answered. Good luck.




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  27. Cadmium in chocolate!? OPEN Question: On the Doc’s advice, I’ve added a couple of tbls. of Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (the exact brand pictured in his video) to my oatmeal. Then, I came across this: http://oag.ca.gov/prop65/60-Day-Notice-2014-00635 a 2014 warning to Hershey for high levels of cadmium in it’s products. A little surfing later, seems Hershey denies it & says its heavy metal levels are fine, safe, meets gov. standards, etc. Then I find this: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/cocoa-flavanols/ and of course I’m not paying to see the results. Also, you’ll note many organic brands didn’t do any better. So, cadmium in cocoa & cacao, is it worth the risk to eat 2 or 3 table spoons daily or not? Like most things in nutrition, expose/ dosage over time matters. Admittingly, I’m now ambivalent of daily cocoa powder. Any & all info greatly appreciated, good health to you all.




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  28. Hello Dr Greger,
    I really like the video and the fact that you addressed the truth
    about chocolate industry hidden behind some of the studies on cocoa. But I
    expected you would also deal with potential harmful effects of purine alkaloid
    theobromine in cocoa. Unfortunately, you didn’t mention anything about it.

    There are some other interesting facts about cocoa (and chocolate) I included in my
    article (link below) and wonder what you think about it:
    http://www.fullhealthsecrets.com/food/truth-about-chocolate/




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    1. Good question! From what I can tell, theobromine is in the same class as caffeine and is a natural stimulant. Dr. Greger doesn’t address theobromine independently, but has discussed benefits of caffeine:
      http://nutritionfacts.org/questions/positive-health-benefits-of-caffeine/
      http://nutritionfacts.org/video/coffee-and-mortality/

      There are some provocative studies as well about the beneficial effects of theobromine:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26026398
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25750625

      My practical experience is that there are people who are sensitive to the stimulant effect of the caffeine and have headaches, palpitations, etc.. when consuming caffeine products. My guess, there are people who would experience the same effect with theobromine. In which case, the unpleasant symptoms may outweigh the potential benefits?

      You have peaked my interest in this!! Thank you.




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  29. There seems to be increasing evidence that cocoa powder very often contains unhealthy amounts of naturally occurring cadmium, a toxic mineral which accumulates in fatty tissue. Apparently, the plant takes up cadmium preferentially from the soil. https://www.consumerlab.com/m/reviews/Cocoa_Powders_and_Chocolates_Sources_of_Flavanols/cocoa-flavanols/

    According to that research, some brands of unsweetened chocolate bars (baking chocolate) may be a healthier alternative. Can you please comment?




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    1. Hi Susan,
      I think you’re absolutely right in being concerned about cadmium in chocolate and are wise to be looking at organizations like consumerlab.com that test for this substance in chocolate. Hopefully chocolate manufacturers will get on board and do the responsible thing to help reduce this toxic mineral!




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  30. Dr. Greger, I follow a nutritarian diet of beans, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds–I eat 4-5 pounds of produce/day! But I also eat an ounce of 85% chocolate every day, and I’m pretty attached to it. Still I worry about the long-term effects of the saturated fat and the fact that most of my daily fat comes from this ounce of chocolate (as opposed to nuts or seeds). Should I try to reduce or eliminate it?




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  31. Healthy 5 minute Brownies – 2 cups of walnuts, 2.25 cups of pitted dates (you can also substitute 1/2 a cup of the dates with dry figs), 3/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao powder, 1-2 tsp of coffee grinds – place in food processor and process until doughy consistency. Press into whatever shape you like and enjoy! Keeps in the refrigerator covered for a week easily. You can also leave out the coffee. I also like to add 1 tsp of maca when I remember.




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  32. Is it true that calcium absorption is inhibited by oxalates in cocoa (claim I read at the Mayo Clinic’s site)?
    Should I separate intake of cocoa and calcium supplementation by a few hours or just give cocoa up altogether?




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    1. Thanks for your question Daniel.

      I am assuming you read this article.

      Calcium absorption is indeed depend on oxalate content of food (1), however, as the article points out, that should be a concern for people with very low calcium intake. Therefore, it is more important to have an adequate amount of calcium intake for age, gender and health.

      And in regards to calcium supplementation, I am not aware of your condition or overall motive to take them but I would certainly recommend you to watch these videos (see here, and here).

      To find out which foods are high in calcium, please see the link attached.

      Hope this answer helps.




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        1. In regards to the separation process, I assume yes but it’s only out of opinion.

          I do know that cooking spinach slightly increases the oxalate content of it (from 656mg per 1/2 cup to 755mg per 1/2 cup). However, where that is an actual concern for kidney stone formation is a debatable issue (2).

          Best wishes




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          1. It seemed the issue of kidney stones (produced from combining calcium-rich foods and [according to Walker, certain kinds of] oxalates) may have been related to the issue of calcium malabsorption.

            Thanks




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          2. Do you think those people who’d suffered those strokes due to Calcium supplementation had so suffered, at least in part, because they had not been supplying their bodies with sufficient K2 (K2 takes Calcium out of the tissues) to deal with all that Calcium?




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          3. Do you think it would be better to stop taking the cocoa and turmeric altogether or to simply separate intake of them from Calcium-Magnesium supplement?




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      1. Condition: Possibly congestive heart failure (had symptoms of it), seemingly as a result of green tea allergy (didn’t know I was allergic, and was drinking 64oz daily for about a week), for which I am following Dr. Sinatra’s suggestions–which suggestions include a Magnesium supplement which requires a Calcium supplement (I’m going to be taking IntraCal — Calcium Orotate and Magnesium Orotate w/ some MSM).




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      2. I guess the same issue with cocoa could exist with turmeric (also supposedly high in oxalates–once I even developed sharp pains in I assume were kidney stones after using turmeric to try to combat the acidification of sugary ice cream immediately after consuming the dessert); both of these are anti-oxidants I rely on.

        Could I just separate intake of these things from my Calcium supplement?




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      3. Yeah, I’d seen the first video on calcium risk:benefit before, and had decided to take only a fraction of the recommended dose (totalling, for
        me, 550mg Calcium and 275mg Magnesium), but I’m glad you brought the
        two videos up: I have to keep an eye on my BP and I wasn’t sure what evils
        the calcium supplements had been guilty of bringing about.




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  33. Question: There is a lot of controversy going on about raw cacao powder vs. roasted cocoa powder, which one is more beneficial to the body, etc. Some people recently suggested to me that raw cacao powder is even harmful and that roasted cocoa is a much better alternative. Is there any truth to that?




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  34. Can you please do a video on Raw Cacao? There is so much controversy and I don’t know what to believe! I definitely do feel the effects of increase in HR and slight headaches. Is it a superfood or to be avoided? Is processed cocoa better than raw cacao?




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  35. Dr. Gregor, Consumer Lab recently tested Cocoa powders and Organic Raw Cacao powders and were surprise that they could not “Approve” ANY of the 14 powders they tested due to their high levels of cadmium and/or lead. I contacted the company of the organic raw cacao powder I was using, which was not tested by Consumer Lab, and they admitted that their product also ranked among the rest for cadmium and other heavy metals. Do you have a recommendation for a cocoa/cacao powder that has been tested and found within the safe limit for cadmium and/or lead? Looking eagerly forward to your reply, since I know you LOVE chocolate like the rest of us!




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  36. Hi, BevP. It can be alarming to think about all of the contaminants that might be lurking in our food. You might be interested in this study:
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joanna_Szpunar/publication/244993201_Bioavailability_of_cadmium_and_lead_in_cocoa_comparison_of_extraction_procedures_prior_to_size-exclusion_fast-flow_liquid_chromatography_with_inductively_coupled_plasma_mass_spectrometric_detection_SE/links/0c96052ea3037ace04000000.pdf
    The researchers stated that, “The detection limit was
    0.5 mg l21 and the RSD was less than 7.5%. Cd and Pb were very firmly bound to the insoluble matrix
    components, of which the binding capacity exceeded about 1000 times the naturally present metal levels. Cocoa
    powder may show possible detoxifying properties for Pb and Cd by binding them into stable complexes, which
    are resistant in gastrointestinal conditions. The maximum average recovery for Cd and Pb was, respectively,
    15% and 5% of the total metal present.”
    This suggests that the lead and cadmium in cocoa may not actually be well absorbed into the body when it is consumed. I think this topic deserves further consideration. Thanks for bringing it up!




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