Cacao Controversy

cacao cocoa chocolate science researchCacao to Cocoa to Chocolate: Healthy Food?
ARYA Journal 2005, 1(1): 29-35, Roya Kelishadi MD

Chocolate is derived from cocoa beans - the fruit of the cacao tree or Theobroma cacao (the latin term: food of the gods). Recent published articles demonstrate that the quality and quantity of the antioxidants in cocoa and chocolate are very high and their flavonoids are believed to reduce the number of free radicals in the body that contribute to medical problems, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer and also to offer some anti-aging health benefits. Cocoa can lower the leukotriene/ prostacyclin ratio and is shown to have beneficial effects on platelets and possibly inflammation and vessel dilation. They inhibit low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation, raise the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level and reduce the thrombotic tendency. Their antioxidant catechin content is four times that of tea. They help the body process nitric oxide. Their flavanols and procyanidins have inhibitory effects on hemolysis, they can also attribute as a defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS) and can inhibit their carcinogenic processes. Also they are shown to inhibit growth and polyamine biosynthesis of human colonic cancer cells. They contain tryptophan and anandamide, which lessen anxiety, promote relaxation and trigger the production of endorphins. Cocoa can prevent dental caries and may play a regulating role in the function of the immune system and prevent infectious and autoimmune diseases. It stimulates lactase enzyme activity. Although caffeine may be harmful in large dose, chocolate contains it in small amount in comparison to coffee and tea. Negative effects of chocolate on childhood hyperactivity and migraine  as well as tension headaches are controversial. Since the theobromine content of chocolate relaxes the esophageal sphincter, patients suffering from heartburn should avoid it. Cocoa can trigger some allergic reactions such as atopic dermatitis. This article reviews the potential health benefits and disadvantages of cocoa & chocolate and suggests that their flavonoid-rich types are health beneficial and when consumed in moderation, along with other plant foods, can be part of a healthy diet.  

Keywords: Cacao, Cocoa, Chocolate, Antioxidants, Flavanols, Caffeine

Chocolate: Food or Drug?
KRISTEN BRUINSMA, MS, DOUGLAS L. TAREN, PhD, J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99: 1249–1256.

"Although addictive behavior is generally associated with drug and alcohol abuse or compulsive sexual activity, chocolate may evoke similar psychopharmacologic and behavioral reactions in susceptible persons. A review of the literature on chocolate cravings indicates that the hedonic appeal of chocolate (fat, sugar, texture, and aroma) is likely to be a predominant factor in such cravings. Other characteristics of chocolate, however, may be equally as important contributors to the phenomena of chocolate cravings. Chocolate may be used by some as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies (eg, magnesium) or to balance low levels of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors (eg, serotonin and dopamine). Chocolate cravings are often episodic and fluctuate with hormonal changes just before and during the menses, which suggests a hormonal link and confirms the assumed gender-specific nature of chocolate cravings. Chocolate contains several biologically active constituents (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), all of which potentially cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations that parallel those of other addictive substances. Most likely, a combination of chocolate's sensory characteristics, nutrient composition, and psychoactive ingredients, compounded with monthly hormonal fluctuations and mood swings among women, will ultimately form the model of chocolate cravings. Dietetics professionals must be aware that chocolate cravings are real. The psychopharmacologic and chemosensory effects of chocolate must be considered when formulating recommendations for overall healthful eating and for treatment of nutritionally related health issues." J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99:

"Does chocolate simply have exceptional orosensory properties or are its effects more complex? Several explanations have been proposed, but no solid evidence has pinpointed exactly how chocolate induces its drug-like effects. Can chocolate be classified as a drug? Can one be addicted to a food? Many have argued that chocolate contains biologically active compounds that may have addictive properties; yet why aren't other pharmacologically related foods craved with the same intensity? What about nutritional deficiencies? Could chocolate intake be a form of self-medication to compensate for nutrients lacking in the diet, similar to the practice of ingestion of unusual dietary substances (known as pica)? Then other foods containing those nutrients should easily be substituted, but they are not. Clearly, controversy surrounds the question of whether motivations for chocolate are physiological, psychological, or pharmacologic, and no unambiguous answer has been proposed. Thus, scientists continue to tackle the issue in hopes of illuminating the basis for the potent, ubiquitous effects of chocolate." J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99: 1249–1256.

"The literature on chocolate is dominated by 4 general issues: the motivating chemosensory characteristics of chocolate, the desired psychopharmacologic effects of chocolate or its biologically active constituents, the theorized self-medication of nutritional or neurochemical deficiencies, and the association of chocolate cravings with hormonal variations in women. Although any or all of these explanations may contribute to the occurrence of cravings, the sensory reward of chocolate, shaped by physiological state and cognitive factors, is an exceptionally potent force and appears to be the predominant factor in the phenomenon of chocolate cravings." J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99: 1249–1256.

Related Items

Immuno Mushroom - 1.44oz Heart Bar
Immuno Mushroom - 1.44oz Heart Bar

White Passion - 1.44oz Heart Bar (Dairy FREE)
White Passion - 1.44oz Heart Bar (Dairy FREE)

Category: Health and Chocolate
Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 02:25:00 AM
Views: 10694

"Cacao seems to cause totally irrational behavior in the people who don't eat it."

Cacao Controversy. Although addictive behavior is generally associated with drug and alcohol abuse or compulsive sexual activity, chocolate may evoke similar psychopharmacologic and behavioral reactions in susceptible persons.