Miscellaneous Chocolate Facts...
Many of the old myths about chocolate and health
and crumbling under the weight of scientific fact. The once-prevalent believe
that something that tastes so good just can't be good for you has given
way to a more balanced picture of chocolate and cocoa products and their
relation to health and nutrition. Here are brief reviews of recent findings
that correct common misperceptions of the effects of chocolate on health.
- Myth: Confectionery
is a major cause of tooth decay.
- Truth: Tooth
decay is primarily the result of poor oral hygiene. Dental caries (another
word for cavities) are caused by any foods containing fermentable carbohydrates
that are left on the teeth for too long. In fact, there are ingredients
found in chocolate products that may retard the tooth decaying process.
- Myth: Chocolate
is high in caffeine.
- Truth: The
amount of caffeine in a piece of chocolate candy is significantly lower
than that in coffee, tea or cola drinks. For instance, a 5 oz cup of instant
coffee has between 40 and 108 mg of caffeine, while a 1 oz milk chocolate
bar contains only 6 mg and many confectionery items have no caffeine at
- Myth: Confectionery
has a high fat content and will lead to weight gain.
- Truth: "Candy,
in moderation, can be part of low-fat eating. In fact, an occasional
sweet treat helps you stick to a healthy eating plan." - Annette B.
Natow, Ph.D., R.D., author of The Fat Counter and The Fat Attack
- Q. What is the level of cholesterol in a 1.65
oz. bar of milk chocolate?
- A. The American Heart Association recommends
that daily cholesterol intake not exceed 300 mg. A chocolate bar is actually
low in cholesterol. A 1.65 oz. bar contains only 12 mg! A one oz piece
of cheddar cheese contains 30 mg of cholesterol — more than double the
amount found in a chocolate bar.
- Q. What is the level of sodium in a one oz milk
- A. According to the National Research Council
of the National Academy of Sciences, the maximum Recommended Daily Allowance
(RDA) for sodium is 1,100 to 3,300 mg daily. A 1.5 oz milk chocolate bar
contains 41 mg, while the same size dark chocolate bar contains only 5
mg On the other hand, a 1.5 oz serving of iced devil's food cake has a
whopping 241 mg — many times more than chocolate bars.
- Q. How much fat is there in a 1.5 oz. chocolate
- A. Health professionals and nutritionists suggest
that calories from fat should account for no more than 30% of your daily
caloric intake. A 1.5 oz. milk chocolate bar contains 13 grams of fat;
a dark chocolate bar of the same weight contains 12.
- Acne: No Link to Chocolate
- Over the past two decades, clinical studies have
exonerated chocolate as a cause or exacerbating factor in the development
or persistence of acne. In fact, many dermatologists doubt that diet plays
any significant role in acne.
- At the University of Missouri, student volunteers
with mild to moderate acne each consumed nearly 20 ounces of chocolate
over a 48 hour period. Examination of lesions on the fifth day of the test
and again on the seventh day showed no new lesions other than those that
might be expected based upon the usual variations the subjects had exhibited
during several weeks of observation prior to the test.
- In a research study at the University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine, a group of 65 subjects were fed chocolate bars containing
nearly ten times the amount of chocolate liquor as a normal 1.5 oz commercially
available chocolate bar. A control group ate a bar that tasted like chocolate,
but actually contained no chocolate liquor. At the conclusion of the test,
the average acne condition of those eating the chocolate was virtually
identical to that of the controls, who had eaten the imitation bars.
- Chocolate and Allergy
- It is possible for a person to be allergic to
any food, including chocolate. But recent evidence suggests that allergy
to chocolate may be relatively rare.
- The actual incidence of allergic sensitivity
to chocolate is far less common than positive reactions to skin scratch
tests would seem to indicate. In at least one double-blind study to determine
the correlation positive skin tests for chocolate allergy and the manifestation
of clinically observable symptoms, researchers could find only one patient
out of a possible 500 who showed both a positive response to the skin test
and an objective clinical reaction after eating chocolate.
- To confirm food allergy or food sensitivity,
a "challenge" of the food in question is administered. To yield
accurate results, the challenge should be conducted under double-blind
conditions; that is, neither the investigator nor the patient knows in
advance whether the food administered is the suspected substance or a placebo.
This allows for objective evaluation of clinical symptoms.
- According to S. Allan Bock, M.D., a researcher
in food allergy at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory
Medicine, evaluation of hundreds of patients at that institution has shown
no confirmed allergic reaction to chocolate during double-blind challenges.
- Caffeine and Theobromine
- Caffeine and theobromine belong to a group of
substances known as methylxanthines. Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee,
tea, cola and, to some degree, cocoa beans. It may also be added to cola
drinks and is a component of certain over-the- counter and prescription
medications. Theobromine is found in cocoa beans; tea contains trace amounts.
- The amount of caffeine ingested when people eat
chocolate in normal quantities is very small. One ounce of milk chocolate,
for example, contains 6 mg of caffeine, little more than the amount found
in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Moreover, there have been no reports
in the scientific literature of any health problems among children or adults
as a result of the caffeine consumed in chocolate.
- Although theobromine is chemically related to
caffeine, it lacks caffeine's stimulant effect on the central nervous system
(CNS). In fact, theobromine is virtually inert as a CNS stimulant.
- Despite the weakness of theobromine's effect
on the brain, many people have mistakenly assumed that it is effective
in warding off fatigue and sleep, especially when it is consumed in combination
with caffeine, as in chocolate.
- To test this assumption, researchers compared
the effect of caffeine, theobromine and a placebo in a clinical study.
They found that theobromine administered in a dose of 500 mg (the amount
of theobromine in approximately 11 oz of milk chocolate consumed in one
sitting) did not increase pulse rate significantly more than the placebo.
Caffeine, when compared to theobromine and the placebo, produced significant
- In a double-blind clinical study, subjects ingested
measured quantities of caffeine and theobromine, separately and together,
at random. Caffeine altered the subjects' own estimates of the time it
took to fall asleep, as well as the soundness of sleep, in a dose-dependent
fashion. A dose of 300 mg. of theobromine, however, had no detectable effect
on sleep. When administered in combination with caffeine, theobromine neither
increased nor decreased the sleep effects of caffeine.
- Dental Caries
- Tooth decay has become less of a problem for
American children over the last 25 years. Between 1960 and 1980 the incidence
of cavities dropped by 50%. Today, one-third of all Americans of college
age have never had a single cavity, thanks largely to fluoride delivered
in water systems, toothpastes and professional fluoride treatments.
- Fluoride, good oral hygiene, and professional
check-ups and prophylactic treatments are keys to minimizing the incidence
of tooth decay. Diet is another factor.
- It is widely accepted that all foods containing
"fermentable carbohydrate" have the potential to contribute to
caries formation. Fermentable carbohydrate is present in most starches
and all sugars, including those that occur naturally in foods and those
added in processed foods. The frequency and duration of tooth exposure
to fermentable carbohydrate have been identified as a factor in caries.
- Although chocolate contains fermentable carbohydrates,
a number of dental research studies suggest that chocolate may be less
apt to promote tooth decay than has been traditionally believed.
- Research at the Forsyth Dental Center in Boston
has shown that chocolate has the ability to offset the acid-producing potential
of the sugar it contains. Acid, produced by certain oral bacteria that
digest, or "ferment", sugars, may damage tooth enamel and cause
- Other theories have been advanced to explain
the fact that chocolate appears to be less cariogenic (cavity-producing)
than its fermentable carbohydrate content would seem to indicate. In a
study conducted at the Eastman Dental Center, certain chocolate products
tested were found to be among the snack foods contributing least to tooth
decay. The researchers reported that milk chocolate's protein, calcium
and phosphate content may provide protective effects on tooth enamel. In
addition, because of its natural fat content, chocolate clears the mouth
relatively faster than other confections; this is important because the
time fermentable carbohydrate remains n contact with tooth surfaces has
a bearing on the food's cariogenic potential.
- Weight Control
- Contrary to popular stereotype, most overweight
people do not eat excessive amounts of cake, cookies, confections or other
foods containing sugar. Their sugar intake tends, in fact, to be below
- More important in controlling weight is the total
number of calories consumed each day and the amount of energy expended
in physical activity. Overweight children, for example, are generally less
active than those of normal weight; thus, they may remain obese even when
their caloric intake is reasonable or even limited.
- Moreover, many people overestimate the calories
in chocolate. A 1.5 oz milk chocolate bar contains approximately 220 calories,
low enough to incorporate into a weight control diet. The occasional chocolate
confection may also reduce the possibility of severe bingeing, which can
occur as a result of feeling deprived of highly satisfying foods such as
From Chocolate Facts on Health and Nutrition
for Educators and Health Professionals, published by the Chocolate Manufacturers
Association, and The Sweet Truth About Confectionery, published by
the National Confectioners Association.
for more information: (210) 824-2462 or
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