Update on Chocolate

Update on Chocolate
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Results of a major international scientific conference summarized.

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This year, a report from a major international scientific conference on chocolate finally revealed why we human beings crave chocolate so much. Their scientific, technical finding? “We…conclude that we like chocolate because it tastes so nice.”

Medically, last year a randomized controlled crossover study from Yale examining, “Acute dark chocolate…ingestion.” And people got paid for that, too.

The researchers found that the sugar in chocolate isn’t good for you; the fat in chocolate—the cocoa butter—isn’t good for you; but the actual cacao bean solids, which are sold as cocoa powder, is great stuff, leading the Journal of the American Heart Association this year to conclude that “cocoa itself…can be recommended without hesitation.”

Ah, but which is healthier—cocoa, or the Dutch processed cocoa?

Some of you may need to go back to the basics. We have cocoa, and we have processed cocoa. And when you process food, you lose nutrients.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to La.blasco via Flickr.

This year, a report from a major international scientific conference on chocolate finally revealed why we human beings crave chocolate so much. Their scientific, technical finding? “We…conclude that we like chocolate because it tastes so nice.”

Medically, last year a randomized controlled crossover study from Yale examining, “Acute dark chocolate…ingestion.” And people got paid for that, too.

The researchers found that the sugar in chocolate isn’t good for you; the fat in chocolate—the cocoa butter—isn’t good for you; but the actual cacao bean solids, which are sold as cocoa powder, is great stuff, leading the Journal of the American Heart Association this year to conclude that “cocoa itself…can be recommended without hesitation.”

Ah, but which is healthier—cocoa, or the Dutch processed cocoa?

Some of you may need to go back to the basics. We have cocoa, and we have processed cocoa. And when you process food, you lose nutrients.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to La.blasco via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

Check out these other videos on cacao:
Dark Chocolate and Artery Function
A Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Fat Burning Via Flavonoids

And check out the sequel: Is Carob Good For You?

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

26 responses to “Update on Chocolate

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    1. Do you use raw cocoa or the dutch? Is your cocoa heated or processed? I am very confused as to what form of chocolate is praised in this and other videos. Is it the ground up powder from raw chocolate beans, still completely raw, that you add to your vegan ice-cream? Thank you.

      1. Do you have data for this? I didn’t see an attachment or link. I would be very interested, as I am researching chocolate for health reasons.

  1. I have a teaspoon of cocoa powder in my coffee every morning. Satisfies my chocolate craving and tastes fabulous :> I remember hearing about a Canadian study on cocoa consumption and reduction in skin cancer-I think it’s ongoing.

  2. There was a study done in 2008 stating woman who ate more chocolate had lower bone density. Do you have anymore information on this potential problem with chocolate

  3. Hi Dr. Greger, every morning I wake up with the craving to eat about 1-2 ounces of plain pecans topped with bits of dates I cut up with a few pieces of crushed cocoa beans that I stick in the dates on top of the pecans. I really like to eat this in the morning for antioxidents and the boost of energy but since I end up eating about 2 tablespoons of it every morning I clock in about 9.3 grams of saturated fat. Do the cholesterol combating components of cocoa neutralize the effects of its fats or does it pose health problems and possible weight gain?
    Thank you for all of your work! You are the best!
    Erin T :)

  4. Wow, this M.D never answered ANY of the questions even though he’s had like 3 years in a couple cases.

    Guess I’m not really going to be taking this as a trusted source or all too reputable.

    1. Sorry about that. I am sure he would have liked to but this site has gotten very busy over the past years, which is why I am now consulting with Dr. Greger and trying to answer everyone’s questions. If any arise please let us know and I’ll do my best to help.

      1. From multiple online reference resources I have researched, and Prop 65 labeling on organic cocoa powder packages I have seen, organic cocoa powder can have dangerously high cadmium and lead levels.

        Please advise me at your earliest convenience on the cadmium, and lead, and any other harmful chemicals in organic cocoa powder and cocoa nibs (some brands of which I have read have lower or no cadmium).

        Also, please ask Dr. Greger to comment on these matters in a video and/or essay at his earliest convenience. Thank you!

        1. You’re right: the darker the chocolate, the more likely it is to have cadmium or lead contamination. This depends on the cadmium and lead in the soil in which the plant was grown. There are several studies from South America, including this one: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25123980 on this topic. Similarly to arsenic in the soil where rice is grown, finding out if the cocoa you use has cadmium and/or lead would likely depend on where it was grown and whether the company producing the product tests for lead and cadmium. Certifying that a product is free of heavy metals is voluntary. This privately held consumer company does testing of this kind, and has a report on multiple brands of cocoa for lead and cadmium. We have not independently verified their information, but this company has testified before Congress on similar issues, and their methods appear sound. Hope that helps! https://www.consumerlab.com/news/dark-chocolate-and-cocoas/7_19_2017/ -Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

          1. Hello Dr. Anderson,

            Thank you for your reply. It appears that the simplest solution for me is to avoid cocoa/cacao powder and substitute with carob.

            Also, I noticed two cocoa/cacao nibs brands that had low Cd levels based on lab tests, but the best Cd level for me is zero.

            Appreciatively,

            Anonymous

          2. Thanks for the reply re chocolate. I am grateful for all of the great videos Dr. Greger puts out and also like being able to look at transcripts on his website. Usually I watch his videos on YouTube which I get with my Roku and watch on TV. I go to his website when I have a specific question I don’t see addressed on the YouTube videos.

            I originally found the information on cadmium in cocoa and dark chocolate via ConsumerLab.com which you referred to in your email. I think they may also have referenced “As You Sow”, the activist group in California that is pursuing this issue. Here is a quote from their website (asyousow.org): As You Sow has conducted independent laboratory testing of over 120 chocolate products for lead and cadmium. We found that 96 of the 127 chocolate products contain lead and/or cadmium above the safe harbor threshold of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Based on these results, we have filed notices with over 20 companies, including *Trader Joe’s, Hershey’s, Mondelēz, Lindt, Whole Foods, Kroger, Godiva, See’s Candies, Mars, Theo Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Ghirardelli, and Chocolove*, for failing to provide the legally required warning to consumers that their chocolate products contain cadmium or lead, or both.

            Hopefully groups like As You Sow and CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), and PCRM will eventually be able to get our government to take action similar to what was done years ago regarding smoking. In the meantime, those of us who are fortunate enough to have read How Not to Die and /or have discovered NutritionFacts.org have real facts to guide our decisions about nutrition. It is sad that so many folks in our country and around the world are still under the spell of the meat, dairy, egg, and processed food industries.

            Thanks again for the email reply on chocolate / cadmium, and please convey my thanks to Dr. Greger for all of his efforts to spread the word about healthy lifestyle choices.

            JP

  5. My question is regarding oxalates in cocoa. I have been plant based for 4 years. For at least 2 years I have been consuming spices in my morning tea based on research on this site (as updated in the new book). I include amla, turmeric, Ceylon cinnamon, cayenne, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, black pepper, and cocoa powder, and I top it off with almond milk. It’s spicy and delicious. But I am wondering if the oxalates (in the 1 Tablespoon of natural, not ditched, cocoa) are blocking the absorption of calcium in the almond milk and other breakfast items as well as the 500 mg calcium supplement which was also taken in the morning (and which I just gave up thanks to your research).

    My recent dexa scan shows “significant” bone loss since my scan 4 years ago (and during that time I have broken an ankle and an elbow, and an MRI shows stenosis and deteriorating discs in my lower back, with one disc just about gone). I am NOT blaming this on my plant based diet, I’m just trying to get it right. It was discovered that I was vitamin D deficient 2 years ago and I have been taking D3 for that. And I have increased my daily exercise.

    In addition, with cessation of the calcium supplement, I am researching how to increase calcium intake using food. I am following the daily dozen (thanks for the book!!!) and aiming for the 1200 mg (recommended by my doctor). My research turned up an article about oxalates in cocoa I know that oxalates in spinach and swiss chard block calcium absorption – does cocoa have the same effect? A cup of almond milk gives me 450 mg but am I blocking absorption by eating a tablespoon of natural cocoa powder at the same time? Should I cut the cocoa entirely or simply cut back? Thanks for your help!

  6. Although the video states that the fat in chocolate is not good for you, I cannot find any reference in the three sources to substantiate that claim. The only reference to the fat content related to the potential for weight gain and that weight gain can lead to other health issues, not the fat in chocolate itself. It would be helpful is Dr. Greger or Dr. Gonzales would clarify this point.

  7. 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.

    1. I have the same question. Cacao nibs have lower concentrations of cadmium, but they contain the bad cocoa butter. I suppose it’s best to avoid cocoa/cacao altogether until further notice.

    2. I was going to ask the same question about cadmium in cocoa powder after reading a review on ConsumerLab.com. There is a consumer activist group in California that has voiced the same concern and has been trying to pressure companies like Hershey to do something about it. According to “As You Sow” (sayousow.org): “As You Sow has conducted independent laboratory testing of 70 chocolate products for lead and cadmium. We found that 45 of the 70 chocolate products contain lead and/or cadmium above the safe harbor threshold of California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Based on these results, we have filed notices with 18 manufacturers, including Trader Joe’s, Hershey’s, Mondelēz, Lindt, Whole Foods, Kroger, Godiva, See’s Candies, Mars, Theo Chocolate, Equal Exchange, Ghirardelli, Earth Circle Organics, and more, for failing to provide the legally required warning to consumers that the products contain cadmium or lead, or both.

      No level of lead is safe for children. Lead exposure has been a significant public health issue for decades. Lead is linked to a variety of neurological impairments, including learning disabilities, seizures, and a lower IQ. Developing fetuses and children are especially vulnerable to lead exposure because their brains are in critical growth and development stages.
      “As underscored by the Flint disaster, humans have contaminated our environment with lead, and now we must do everything in our power to protect ourselves and our children, who are the most vulnerable of us, from every possible exposure,” said Sean Palfrey, MD, a pediatrician and Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health at Boston University School of Medicine. “Young children and pregnant women especially should avoid exposure to lead.”

      Cadmium can cause damage to the kidney, liver, and bones, while also impairing neurobehavioral development. Lead and cadmium are both listed under the act as reproductive toxins.”

      1. I made an error in my comments about cadmium in cocoa. I copied and pasted info from As You Sow, but misspelled their website which should be not saysow.org.

    1. Great question! Dr. G actually explains this on pages 263-64 in his latest book, How Not to Die. The removal of fat from cacao beans to make cocoa powder actually improves the nutritional profile. This is because cocoa butter is one of the rare saturated plant fats (along with coconut and palm kernel oils) that can raise your cholesterol.

  8. Please advise me at your earliest convenience regarding raw organic carob as a healthy substitute for cocoa powder and/or cocoa nibs, which can have dangerous cadmium, and lead levels, and perhaps other harmful chemical levels.

    Also, please ask Dr. Greger to comment on this matter in a video and/or essay at his earliest convenience.

    Thank you!

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