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Chocolate and health


Lior
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There is a lot of research out there, a lot of it not easily digestible by someone not acquainted with the field (i.e. most of it goes right over my head...). Lots of correlations, no crystal clear evidence (is there ever?). Here is what I was looking at:

Adamson et al. HPLC method for the quantification of procyanidins in cocoa and chocolate samples and correlation to total antioxidant capacity J Agric Food Chem 1999;47:4184-8.

Bruinsma, Taren. Chocolate: food or drug? J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Oct; 99(10):1249-56

Chevaux et al. Proximate, Mineral and Procyanidin Content of Certain Foods and Beverages Consumed by the Kuna Amerinds of Panama J Food Cmpstn & Anal 2001;14:553-563

Hertog et al. Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Lancet 1993;342:1007-11.

Hollman, Hertog, Katan. Role of dietary flavonoids in protection against cancer and coronary heart disease. Biochem Soc Transact 1996;24:785-9.

Hollman, Katan. Dietary flavonoids: intake, health effects and bioavailability. Food Chem Toxic 1999;37:937-42.

Knekt, Jarvinen, Reunanen, Maatela. Flavonoid intake and coronary mortality in Finland: a cohort study. Brit Med J 1996;312:478-81.

Lee, Paffenbarger. Life is sweet: candy consumption and longevity BMJ 1998; 317: 1683-1684.

Rein et al. Cocoa inhibits platelet activation and function Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72:30-5.

Vinson, Proch, Zubik. Phenol antioxidant quantity and quality in foods: cocoa, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate J Agric Food Chem. 1999 Dec;47(12):4821-4.

Waterhouse, Shirley, Donovan. Antioxidants in chocolate. Lancet 1996;348:834.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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exactly. I know the pub med site, but the accessible and understandable ones are those of Nestle and Mars. I prefer looking at research that is removed from chocoalte companies having research done-even if the results are honest etc. I got some info from Mort Rosenblum's book-A Bittersweet Saga .... SO if anyone else has some leads- I would appreciate it!

Thanks to all for their input anyway!

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The long and the short of it seems to be that chocolate is a mixed bag, health-wise. It contains antioxidants, which seem to have some benefits, but it also typically contains fat and sugar, which in general have a negative effect. Whether one outweighs the other is a very complex question that will not have any clear-cut answers. I would generally refrain from saying "chocolate is good for you" -- maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Fact is, we don't know.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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My understanding of the health claims is that when we talk about it chocolate being good for you, we're talking about high percentage chocolate. I don't think a regular Hershey's bar has much benefit at all, but a 70% or 85% bar is so low in sugar and fat, and high in antioxidants.

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My understanding of the health claims is that when we talk about it chocolate being good for you, we're talking about high percentage chocolate.  I don't think a regular Hershey's bar has much benefit at all, but a 70% or 85% bar is so low in sugar and fat, and high in antioxidants.

70% and 85% bars are certainly low in sugar, but not necessarily fat. That number refers to cocoa solids and cocoa butter, so cocoa butter can be a big proportion of the total.

But the rest of your point is spot on - if chocolate's to have any health benefit at all re. antioxidants, it must be fine dark chocolates.

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Yes chocolate is loaded with antioxidants but some of the most recent testing finds little health benefit from dietary antioxidants. Of course, just to confuse the issue, different trials suggest there is a benefit from them.

Let me grab another chocolate bar while I ponder this question along with why chocolate was left off the food pyramid since it is a basic food group.

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Yes chocolate is loaded with antioxidants but some of the most recent testing finds little health benefit from dietary antioxidants.  Of course, just to confuse the issue, different trials suggest there is a benefit from them.

Yes, exactly. When you get to reading the studies themselves you can see how grossly the media tends to over-sell the benefits. The conclusions of these studies are all "this study suggest that there may be a link" which gets twisted into "CHOCOLATE CURES CANCER"-type headlines. I was just complaining about this in another thread: it drives me crazy. I understand why it happens - just try to read the studies yourself! They are over our collective heads, so we want a dumbed-down version that we can make sense of. But studies like these are simply not easy to interpret, and any non-scientific explanation is going to be off the mark, by definition.

I eat chocolate because it tastes great... do I really need another reason? :smile:

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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While dark chocolate has been grabbing most of the healthful headlines, it's not the sole source of good for you stuff in chocolate. cocoa butter is approximately 1/3 stearic acid, which has been shown to result in a levelling off of cholesterol levels, and in some cases a lowering of cholesterol levels as well. Almost all of the good for you research has focused on the cardiovascular positive properties of chocolate, however, which comes from the antioxidants (or antioxidant mediated biological responses such as the production of NO or platelet aggregation reduction, that sort of stuff), which, of course, is almost always tied into our good friend dark chocolate. I have lots and lots of stuff on this at work.

Most of the research is going to be written by, well, researchers who either don't know how to convey their message to non-researchers, don't want to convey it to non-researchers, or want to sound awfully important by m aking it so no one knows what the blazes they're talking about. I just got back from my wife's PhD defense (non related field) today, and she did an amazing job of communicating it on a level that anyone - even i - could understand. We need more of that type of communication in the scientific field!

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Hi. Is there anyone who can refer me to research or studies done on the chocolate-health connection? I am interested in research conducted by  universities/scientists independent to Mars or Nestle, for example.

Thanks!

You can find some decent review articles online. For instance:

A critical look at the effects of cocoa on human health

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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