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Monday, 9 April 2012

Chocolate – healthful or not? - Hoppy Easter

At a time when we should look to global peace, irrespective of your religious affiliation, you are referred you back to previous postings where the tragedies of the current violent world are documented Peace as a health prerequisite   War and Peace DrPHealth.  

How about something a bit lighter to commemorate the global celebration of peace?   For whatever reason (and there are a few theories), chocolate has become synonymous with the Easter season.   This poses the question of whether this delectable substance has more benefit than harm?

The first obstacle in the debate is defining what is chocolate?  The Dairy Milk, Cadbury, Mars, Hershey’s Kisses or chocolate bunnies that adorn certain homes and may be the target of chocolate egg hunts are far from the pure cacao originally cultivated in Central and South America for thousands of years.  Pure ‘cacao’ and its refined product ‘cocoa’,  have been subjected to innumerable health studies and enjoy claims of reducing migraines, reduced LDL lipoproteins, faster muscle recovery, reducing dementia and as an aphrodisiac.  The later appears more lore than evidence based, but indulge yourself in self-reflective research and make your own assessment.

The Mars company has invested extensively in researching flavinoids, a component of cocoa.  One might think the purpose is self-serving, however as privately owned corporations go, the Mars family has little more to gain in advancing personal profits and the curiosity based exploration of science deserves passing commendation. The lack of prolific evidence of benefit is knowledge unto itself.  Now if only more companies would invest in any branch of scientific research we would all benefit.

Regrettably however, cocoa is frequently mixed with milk products, sugars, and fats – diluting what pure benefit cocoa might bring forth.   Cocoa diluted down to as little as 15% (usually less than 1/3rd) with the remainder being saturated fat and simple sugars which are known to contribute to cardiovascular problems, diabetes and obesity.  Those added calories and fats likely at a minimum negate any value of pure cocoa extract contents.

So – if you are to partake of the sacred bean, do so with the purest of cocoa, and in moderation!  

As a sobering final thought; Nearly half of currently global cocoa production comes from the Côte d’Ivoire, with another 1/6th from other Western Africa countries.  Countries of which are renowned for exploitation of children for labour, including harvesting of the cacao bean. 

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