Chocolate .....The reasons not to consume

An evaluation of chocolate should, it seems to us, result in a judgement to condemn chocolate as a suitable food on three counts:  (1) its inherent chemical toxicity, (2) the additives require to make it palatable, and (3) the contaminates that occur in chocolate due to unsanitary methods of harvesting and primary manufacture.   let's take a look at these one at a time.

The Inherent Chemical Characteristics of Chocolate
As chocolate grows naturally it is highly unpalatable, being bitter and unpleasant.  The processing of chocolate is such that it becomes highly alkaline, making it even more bitter, a process in itself considered to be unhealthful.   A bitter taste is generally considered unpleasant.   It is a taste usually associated with harmful alkaloids, profligates and other poisonous substances.   An unpleasant taste sensation is a warning signal that something potentially injurious is in the mouth.   Masking the injurious agent with sugar and flavorings does not eliminate the danger.

Theobromine in chocolate is the principle methylxanthine, one of the harmful alkaloids which cause abnormal gland growth, central nervous system stimulation, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety.   Theobromine is present in breakfast cocoa in the amount of 1 - 2 %.  Theobromine salts are known to cause an upset stomach, flushing of the skin with a warm sensation and generalized or localized itching.   The kidneys and liver are mainly involved in detoxifying and excreting the drug.  If the kidneys are underactive, Theobromine can accumulate to high blood levels.

Other methylxanthines, possibly caffeine and theophylline which also occur in chocolate, increase the undesirable features of its chemical make-up.  the toxic pharmacology of theophylline includes irritation of the stomach, with discomfort, nausea and vomiting as well as stimulation of the central nervous system.   Recently chocolate has been incriminated in the possible production of enlargement of the prostate in men.   Since nodules in the prostate similar to tumors in the breast are know to increase risk of cancer, every effort should be made to prevent these growths.

All  brands of cocoa contain more tannin per cup than the estimated 2 grains per average cup in tea.   Tannin has been implicated, in certain cancers of the digestive tract.

Children will be more likely to have a bedwetting problem if given cocoa. Caffeine content may be as high as 112 milligrams per cup of cocoa beverage.   It is believed that cocoa interferes with calcium absorption.   The high phosphate levels that develop during the metabolism of cocoa result in depressing the blood level of calcium.   Therefore, contrary to advice sometimes given by doctors and dieticians, chocolate milk is not a good way for growing children to get calcium!

The cocoa consumed by children may actually tie up calcium and other nutrients they get from such excellent sources as vegetables, whole grains, legumes and greens.   Chocolate contains 0.45 to o.49% oxalic acid.   Oxalic acid may combine with calcium to form an insoluble compound, calcium oxalate, which passes out of the body, further reducing the amount of available calcium in the gastrointestinal tract.

Additives Required to Mask Bitterness
A large amount of sugar is necessary to make chocolate palatable.   Sugar interferes with calcium absorbtion and utilization, reduces the ability of white blood cells to destroy germs, interferes with thinking, fosters disobedience and misbehavior in children, and promotes decay of teeth and peptic ulcers.
Furthermore some kind of oily emulsion must be combined with chocolate in order to eliminate its unpleasant flavor and grainy consistency   Generally this emulsion is milk, cream, or oil which produces a rich and unhealthful food.   Any reasonable serving of chocolate milk later is certain to slow digestion and cause fermentation (partial splitting of large molecule nutrients).  When eaten fats can cause red blood cells to cluster together in groups, blocking capillary circulation in the brain and reducing mental performance.  Chocolate milk is definitely not a food for school children.

In 1988, an elementary school teacher in southeast New Mexico, suspecting chocolate to the culprit behind the often unacceptable behavior of his students, decided to conduct a little experiment.   Although his students had a habit of bringing an abundant store of chocolate confection every day to consume at recess, lunch and any occasion they could find, he restricted its use for one day until the very last period. 

With one hour to go in the school day, he passed out a math test containing a number of problems of moderate difficulty.   the students were soon lost in a quiet world of numbers.  The teacher walked among them, noting the neat and careful work being done.   Fifteen minutes into the test, the teacher distributed a thin chocolate bar to each student.   Eagerly opening their treats, the students were soon munching and ciphering away.

After only a few minutes, a strange change came over the class.  The quiet earnestness was replaced by a restless distraction.  The precision of the written characters became sloppy.  Minor annoyances gave rise to arguments an general unruly behavior.  And for the most part the students were no longer able to work the math problems.

The experiment was not done under scientific conditions, but it was enough to convince the teacher that chocolate, or something in it, was not a friend to education.

The Contaminants in Chocolate
Most cocoa beans are produced in countries where sanitation levels are generally far below those in the U.S..  Here is some information both interesting and useful:
The cacao is a small, beautiful tree, Indigenous to the tropical regions of the world, where millions of pounds of chocolate, milk chocolate, and cocoa power are produced annually.   Tropical areas in the western hemisphere as well as Ghana, Nigeria, French West Africa, Samoa, Madagascar and Ceylon are all growing these ornamental and commercial trees.  The fruit of these trees became a commercial product for world wide consumption in the 17th century.  Cortez is credited with introducing the cacao bean to Spain in 1528.  Cane sugar was just becoming commercially prominent at that time an was used to sweeten the chocolate drink.  It was first used as a cold drink and was often made quite thick.   So that a spoon could stand upright in it.   Chocolate shops were opened in London as early as 1657 to sell the fashionable drink to the wealthy.  Cacao is the term used to refer to the tree, and its farms are called cacao farms.  Cocoa is defined as the food prepared by heating and grinding the "cleaned" cacao beans.   Chocolate is the solid or semi plastic food prepared by finely grinding to the point of pulverizing cocoa.  It must have a minimum of 50% fat.   The term cocoa is also used to indicate the ground powder made from the pulverized cake left after cocoa butter has been pressed from the ground cacao bean/  Cocoa butter is the cocoa fat, solid at room temperature with a melting point between 92 and 94.  Cacao beans are produced in pods from 6-10 inches long when mature, varying in color from green through reds and yellow.   Each pos contains 25-50 beans and one pod may yield 1-2 ounces of dry beans.  The average tree bears the year around, but yieldingly 20-30 pods or about 2 pounds of dried beans per year.  A pod has white pulp which is delicious to the taste and used to make a fresh drink or dessert jelly, but the seeds are bitter and astringent.   They have a white, very pale violet or deep purple color.   IT is from the seeds that chocolate is made.  The pods are cut from the tree and sorted according to type or quality.  The pods are opened and the beans scooped out.  Now all is ready for the fermenting process which takes from 3 - 8 days.   At the peak of the fermentation, the temperature may reach 140 degrees.  The fermentation is accomplished in boxes, on mats, or in wicker bags.   The fermentation is essential for the development of the chocolate flavor.   During the fermentation process, the bean's own enzymes and wild yeasts enhance the fermentation process.

Fermentation generally occurs in the yards of the local farmer.   During this process, children and adults walk over the piles; insects, rodents small animals and other living things make their nests in the piles, and any type of contamination my occur during this primary part of the manufacture of chocolate,   It has been shown that large quantities of aflatoxin (a cancer producing agent from molds) can be found in cacao beans.  Aflatoxin is one of the most potent known cancer producing agents.  In a booklet published by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department entitled "The Food Defect Action Levels,"  a specifications listing of current levels for natural or unavoidable defects in food?  lists the natural defect levels in chocolate in the form of "insect, rodent, and other natural contaminants" that are allowable by the FDA.  Allowed in chocolate and chocolate liquor used in the manufacture of such products as Hershey's Chocolate, are up to 120 insect fragments per cup (8 oz.) or two rodent hairs per cup.  An ordinary Hershey's chocolate bar is 11/16th ounces, meaning that every time you eat a chocolate bar, it may contain a rodent hair and 16 insect parts an still carry the blessing of the FDA.  When I read these specifications, I am very happy for carob and its many chocolate like products which have much less likelihood of contamination.

After fermentation, the seeds are sun dried or kiln dried and then are ready to be shipped to the chocolate manufacturers.  At the factory, the beans are roasted and fed into a machine which cracks them and blows away the hulls or shells.   The cacao beans are then ground on steel rollers.  Since the beans contain 53-54% cocoa butter, the grinding process results in a chocolate liquor with a consistency much like thin peanut butter.

An additive to alkalinize the acid beans or Liquor further darkens the cocoa and alters the flavor to make it milder.  The cocoa butter is separated through enormous pressure and heat, and is used in pharmaceutical preparations, cosmetics, soaps and other products.  Since sugar and fat both tend to exude from candy, additives are placed in candy to prevent the surfacing of these materials.   Various  additives or modifications of the fat have been tried but none is completely satisfactory in preventing the migration of fat.  Rancidity of fats can usually be detected after storage at 86 degrees F from 6-12 weeks.  The unpleasant flavor heralds the presence of the harmful change that occurs with aging of fats.  Rancidity can be delayed by adding various ingredients  including referrer's yeast or concentrates prepared from oat flour in amounts equal to about 3 % of total batch weight.  Protein whipping agents are added to provide lightness of texture and further imbalance the nutrient content toward richness.

The chocolate powder or pressed cakes there must not be more than 75 insect fragments in three tablespoons of the powder.   Many individuals who believe themselves o be allergic to chocolate are in fact allergic to the animal parts that are in chocolate.  Four percent of cacao may be infested by insects.  
Animal excreta (such as visible rat droppings) must not exceed 10 milligrams per pound!

Should you like to have further information about this matter you may obtain materials from FDA Guidelines and Compliance Branch, Bureau of Foods (HFF-3 12) 200 C. St. S.W., Washington, D.D. 20204

It seems uncanny that chocolate ever could have been considered a special food for children.  The Ladies Home Journal back in October, 1930, carried an ad for Baker's Cocoa that read "the weekly treat became a daily delight and Jimmy's weight went up."  What a shame that children have ever been allowed to have any product from cocoa.   Even though chocolate might induce children to drink more milk and eat more sugar and fat, in mice experiments the extra milk does not result in improvement of nutrition, but only makes their body fat greater!

One 11 year old boy was hospitalized for abdominal pain and vomiting blood.   He had suddenly developed tiny spots of hemorrhage in his skin all over his body called "Purpura."  It was discovered while he was in the hospital that his attacks of skin hemorrhage and abdominal pain could be brought on within a few minutes of giving chocolate either by mouth or by a scratch test in the skin.  Chocolate is also a common cause of pruritus ani, an uncomfortable itch around the anus, the terminal part of the rectum.  Stopping the use of chocolate by these sufferers results in prompt cessation of the itch.

As for us, our level of fastidiousness in foods would make any one of the above mentioned features banish chocolate permanently from our dietary.  A good substitute for chocolate is available tat has a much greater likelihood of being grown and harvested under sanitary conditions.   We speak of carob.   On all three counts it is a better product than chocolate.   It is easier to work with in food preparation than chocolate, and is highly palatable.   It has mild flavor and natural sweetness.  We recommend it as being superior to chocolate or cocoa

From Poison with a Capital C by Agatha Thrash, M.D. and Calvin Thrash, M.D.

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