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  1. Dean Pomerleau

    So Why Don't We Brew Our Chocolate?

    All, So (dark) chocolate and other cacao-derived products (i.e. cacao beans, nibs, cocoa powder) have a lot of beneficial phytochemicals (polyphenols, flavonols, etc). These have been shown to be beneficial for both the cardiovascular system and the brain - this is pretty well established, so I'm not including references (I know you are disappointed...). Alright - maybe one reference [2] - a review of CVD benefits of chocolate. Later... - here is another [4], on brain benefits of chocolate. But as we've discussed recently, these chocolate products have some things we'd rather avoid ingesting, including saturated fat (except for cocoa powder), and potential heavy metal contaminants, especially cadmium. What other food items have this same "take the good with the bad" quality? Two spring to mind - coffee and tea. But in these two cases, we don't take the good with the bad. We process them in such a way as to get the good without the bad. I was reminded of this today when responding to this post on the potential heavy metal contamination associated with consuming matcha green tea - where the tradition is to eat the tea leaves. By brewing green tea, and discarding the leaves, we retain the beneficial tea polyphenols but eliminate the heavy metals. Similarly, in this discussion we talked about getting the benefits of coffee beans by brewing and then filtering them, with paper (or possibly? metal) filters to eliminates the cholesterol-raising diterpenes cafestol and kahweol that the beans naturally contain, while retaining the health-promoting phytochemicals in coffee. So why don't we do the same thing for chocolate? Namely, why don't we grind, brew and filter the coffee beans to extract that beneficial polyphenols into the water, while leaving (most?) of the heavy metals and saturated fat in the solid "chocolate grounds"? Well, I can think of one possible reason we don't do this - we like the taste and mouth feel of actually eating the chocolate. But putting that (admittedly big deterrent for some) aside, is there reason to believe this strategy wouldn't work to get most of the health benefits of chocolate without the potential downsides of heavy metals and saturated fat, not to mention the extra calories? First, regarding eliminating the 'bad stuff' by brewing and filtering chocolate. For heavy metals, it would seem no different from tea or coffee. Since the heavy metals appear to remain locked in the plant matrix of the discarded solids (coffee grounds or tea leaves), I see no good reason to think it would be different with the heavy metal contaminants in cacao beans. Anyone think otherwise? Regarding the other 'bad stuff' in cacao / chocolate - the saturated fat. Its hard to find nutrition information on coffee beans (as eaten) - without any chocolate coating... CRON-O-Meter comes up empty. But I did find two references to the calories in coffee beans themselves. The first lists 100g of coffee beans as having 406kcal, 10.2g of fat, with 4.8g of it saturated. Not too far from raw cacao beans in fact. The second also listed 10g of fat per 100g of beans, with somewhat fewer calories (300kcal). Either way, these illustrate that coffee beans themselves contain a lot of fat, but as we all know, brewed coffee has virtually none. So clearly fat doesn't get extracted to the liquid as a result of brewing and filtering coffee beans, so I would expect the same for cacao beans - right? What about the other side of the equation - should we expect the 'good stuff' in chocolate to get extracted to the water when brewed and filtered, like it does for tea and coffee? Again - I don't see why not. As I understand it, based on information from [2] (a very good source of info about polyphenols in cacao, BTW) and [3] (also a good source), the taxonomy of beneficial phytochemicals (with special emphasis on those in cacao) goes something like this: All Phytochemicals All Polyphenols All Flavonoids All proanthocyanidin? All Flavanols catechins - in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms epicatechins - in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms ... ... See here for list ... .. Note: I'm not exactly sure about this taxonomy, especially where proanthocyanidin fits in - the literature is very confusing. But the important thing is that the main phytochemicals in cacao are catechins and epicatechins, which should be familiar to people. They are (among) the healthy phytochemicals found in green tea. So clearly if they are water-soluble in green tea, they should be water soluble in ground cacao beans as well, it would seem. So, as a result of all this, it seems logical to me that grinding, brewing and filtering cacao beans should get rid of the bad stuff (heavy metals, saturated fat, and calories) and extract the good stuff (the polyphenols) into the resulting watery brew. Note - I should have said this earlier, we aren't talking about brewing hot chocolate here - where the cocoa powder is mixed in with the liquid and consumed. We're brewing ground cacao beans, filtering (with a paper filter) to separate the liquid from the grounds, then discarding the grounds and drinking the coffee-like chocolate brew. But what to do with the beans before grinding them? In particular, should they be roasted, like coffee beans are? Perhaps to reduce bitterness, but if one wants to maximize polyphenols, it seems from [1] that grinding raw beans would be best. You won't be surprised to learn that this isn't a novel idea. In fact, there are several commercially-available products for brewing cacao as you would coffee. The two most popular are Crio Bru and Choffy (cute name!). They are both a bit more expensive than coffee, although pretty close to the price of premium coffee beans. Not surprisingly, they are both roasted, presumably to improve flavor and reduce bitterness. They recommend using a french press to brew, which I have, but I wonder if the Aeropress will work as well (Choffy's website says yes! and gives instructions). Here is a good overview from a "chocolate geek" about brewing chocolate, including a review of Crio Bru and Choffy products. It sounds very promising, and not hard to do. You can also buy ground brewing chocolate from his website as well. In the long-run if I like it and the above reasoning isn't shot down..., I'll probably grind my own raw beans or lightly roast the beans myself before grinding (I've roasted coffee beans before using an air popcorn popper - its a piece of cake). But for now, I've ordered one of the Crio Bru varieties from Amazon (Choffy was more expensive and not available via Amazon Prime). It should arrive in a couple days and I'll let you know what it is like relative to coffee. In the meantime, I'm very curious about what other people think of this idea. I can certainly imagine people balking at the diminished enjoyment of drinking coffee-like chocolate rather than eating the 'real thing' or even drinking cocoa, but I'm most interested about people's thoughts on the health angle. Also if you've ever actually tried brewed chocolate, I'd love to hear what you think! --Dean ------------ [1] Food Chem. 2015 May 1;174:256-62. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.11.019. Epub 2014 Nov 8. Flavanols, proanthocyanidins and antioxidant activity changes during cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) roasting as affected by temperature and time of processing. Ioannone F(1), Di Mattia CD(2), De Gregorio M(2), Sergi M(2), Serafini M(3), Sacchetti G(4). The effect of roasting on the content of flavanols and proanthocyanidins and on the antioxidant activity of cocoa beans was investigated. Cocoa beans were roasted at three temperatures (125, 135 and 145 °C), for different times, to reach moisture contents of about 2 g 100 g(-1). Flavanols and proanthocyanidins were determined, and the antioxidant activity was tested by total phenolic index (TPI), ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) and total radical trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP) methods. The rates of flavanol and total proanthocyanidin loss increased with roasting temperatures. Moisture content of the roasted beans being equal, high temperature-short time processes minimised proanthocyanidins loss. Moisture content being equal, the average roasting temperature (135 °C) determined the highest TPI and FRAP values and the highest temperature (145 °C) determined the lowest TPI values. Moisture content being equal, low temperature-long time roasting processes maximised the chain-breaking activity, as determined by the TRAP method. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. PMID: 25529678 ---------------- [2] Nutrients. 2014 Feb 21;6(2):844-80. doi: 10.3390/nu6020844. Cocoa polyphenols and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease. Khan N(1), Khymenets O(2), Urpí-Sardà M(3), Tulipani S(4), Garcia-Aloy M(5), Full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3942736/ Monagas M(6), Mora-Cubillos X(7), Llorach R(8), Andres-Lacueva C(9). Epidemiological studies have demonstrated the beneficial effect of plant-derived food intake in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The potential bioactivity of cocoa and its polyphenolic components in modulating cardiovascular health is now being studied worldwide and continues to grow at a rapid pace. In fact, the high polyphenol content of cocoa is of particular interest from the nutritional and pharmacological viewpoints. Cocoa polyphenols are shown to possess a range of cardiovascular-protective properties, and can play a meaningful role through modulating different inflammatory markers involved in atherosclerosis. Accumulated evidence on related anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa polyphenols is summarized in the present review. PMCID: PMC3942736 PMID: 24566441 [3] http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/590371 Quoting from it: The main flavanols present in the cocoa powder are catechins and epicatechins in either monomeric or multimeric (procyanidin) forms. --------[4] http://newsroom.cumc.columbia.edu/blog/2014/10/26/flavanols-memory-decline/ "Dietary cocoa flavanols—naturally occurring bioactives found in cocoa—reversed age-related memory decline in healthy older adults, according to a study led by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) scientists. The study, published today in the advance online issue of Nature Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that one component of age-related memory decline in humans is caused by changes in a specific region of the brain and that this form of memory decline can be improved by a dietary intervention."
  2. All, The idea that rapid weight loss can result in release of toxins stored (relatively harmlessly) in body fat cells gets bandied about pretty regularly. In fact I've done it myself several times in just the last couple days (here and here). I've never actually looked for evidence to support this conventional wisdom, which has left me with a nagging feeling of dis-ease. I try not to make claims that I can't back up with evidence. So I figured I would look into it and start a new thread to collect the evidence and encourage discussion about it. Coincidently (or perhaps not?!), Al Pater posted this new study [1] today, which bears directly on the topic. In it, researchers followed 32 women who had just given birth and were breast feeding to see how the level of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in their breast milk changed as a function of postpartum weight loss. All the women lost at least some weight in the 24 weeks of the study, and sure enough, the amount of POPs in their breast milk was highly correlated with the amount of weight they lost: Among these women, the concentration of PCB 153 in HM was significantly (p = 0.04) higher at follow-up than at baseline. Weight loss was significantly positively associated with changes in concentrations of all studied POPs (2.0-2.4% increase per percent weight loss). Since these women probably weighed in the neighborhood of 140-180 lbs to start with, it appears that the level of toxins in their breast milk went up by about 1-2% per pound of weight loss. Since not all of the toxins released end up in breast milk (especially in men and non-lactating women!) I would expect the increase in toxin load circulating in the blood per pound of weight loss to be higher than that. So [1] definitely supports the idea that rapid weight loss increases circulating toxin load. But even more direct and conclusive evidence of dieting-induced toxin release is study [2]. In [2], researchers followed 45 morbidly obese women for 6 months following either bariatric surgery or intensive dieting. These women were really heavy to start with - average BMI around 40. And they lost quite a bit of weight (-32lbs of body weight on average) in a relatively short period of time (six months). But in fact that translates into 1.23lbs per week of weight loss, which is very close to the maximum rate of weight loss we recommend around here, ~1lb per week. So what did they find? A very large increase in the same Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), to the tune of a 50% increase on average: In patients who lost weight, serum [total POP] levels displayed an increase after 6 months of approximately 50%. ... [T]he increase in [Total POP] serum levels after 6 months of weight loss was more pronounced in patients losing relatively more visceral adipose tissue. So even the kind of "slow-and-steady" weight loss we recommend of 1lb of weight per week results in a dramatic increase in toxin load that persists for at least six months. And visceral fat loss is a bigger factor contributing to toxin release than subcutaneous (love-handle) fat loss. In satisfying agreement with the 1-2% increase in POPs per pound of weight loss observed in [1], this study found that an average of 32lbs of weight loss resulted in a 50% increase in average serum POP level, which equates to ~1.5% increase in circulating POPs per pound of weight loss. So in general even 1lb of weight loss per week may be too rapid... Ah. That feels better. My cognitive dissonance is subsiding... Now I can go back to those two posts and insert a link to this thread. And now we have a place to point next time anyone makes the statement that rapid weight loss releases toxins into the blood. --Dean ------------ [1] Chemosphere. 2016 Jun 6;159:96-102. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2016.05.077. Environmental organic pollutants in human milk before and after weight loss. Lignell S, Winkvist A, Bertz F, Rasmussen KM, Glynn A, Aune M, Brekke HK. Abstract Many persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are banned because they accumulate in organisms and are toxic. Lipophilic POPs are stored in maternal adipose tissue and concentrations in human milk (HM) may increase during weight loss. Our aim was to examine associations between weight loss and concentrations of chlorinated POPs in HM in lactating women participating in a weight loss study. We analysed POPs (PCB 28, PCB 153, HCB, DDE) in HM at 12 and 24 weeks postpartum from 32 women who participated in a randomized, 2 ? 2 factorial trial of diet and exercise for postpartum weight loss. Participants donated milk before and after the intervention period. We examined associations between weight loss and change in POP concentrations and estimated the intake of POPs by their breastfed infants. Most (n = 27) women lost weight during intervention, 0.45?0.30 kg/week (mean?SD). Among these women, the concentration of PCB 153 in HM was significantly (p = 0.04) higher at follow-up than at baseline. Weight loss was significantly positively associated with changes in concentrations of all studied POPs (2.0-2.4% increase per percent weight loss). Estimated mean intakes of POPs (ng/day) remained stable because infant milk consumption decreased during the study period. As infants gained weight, estimated mean intakes per kg body weight decreased 17-22%. Changes in concentrations of POPs in HM correlated positively with maternal weight loss, but it is unlikely that the balance between the benefits and risks of breastfeeding will change if the weight loss is restricted to 0.5 kg per week. KEYWORDS: Human milk; Obese; Overweight; POPs; Postpartum; Weight loss PMID: 27281542 ------------ [2] J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Dec;100(12):4463-71. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-2571. Epub 2015 Oct 15. Pivotal Role for the Visceral Fat Compartment in the Release of Persistent Organic Pollutants During Weight Loss. Dirinck E(1), Dirtu AC(1), Jorens PG(1), Malarvannan G(1), Covaci A(1), Van Gaal LF(1). Author information: (1)Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology, and Metabolism (E.D., L.F.V.G.), Toxicology Centre (A.C.D., G.M., A.C.), and Department of Intensive Care Medicine/Clinical Pharmacology (P.G.J.), Antwerp University Hospital, University of Antwerp, 2650 Edegem, Belgium. Full text: http://sci-hub.cc/10.1210/jc.2015-2571 CONTEXT: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), are implicated as potential endocrine disruptors and obesogens. These lipophilic substances are preferentially stored in the fat compartment and released into the circulation during weight loss. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine the contribution of abdominal adiposity, and visceral adiposity in particular, to the increase of serum PCB levels during weight loss. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fourty-five obese women were prospectively recruited. Twenty individuals received dietary counseling and 25 underwent bariatric surgery. Anthropometric data were collected and intra-abdominal adiposity was assessed by measurement computed tomography scanning of the abdominal fat compartment, delineating the visceral and subcutaneous compartment. Serum levels of 27 PCBs were determined and the sum of all PCBs (ΣPCBs) calculated. Follow-up measurements of anthropometric data, computed tomography scanning, and PCB levels were performed after 6 months in all patients. RESULTS: In patients who lost weight, serum ΣPCB levels displayed an increase after 6 months of approximately 50%. Both correlation and regression analysis, focusing on the relative contribution of the visceral vs the subcutaneous fat compartment, suggested that the increase in ΣPCB serum levels after 6 months of weight loss was more pronounced in patients losing relatively more visceral adipose tissue. This trend could be established in the diet-treated, but not the surgery-treated subgroup. CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that the contribution of PCBs released from the visceral fat compartment might be more pronounced compared with the subcutaneous fat compartment during weight loss. These findings are present in the entire study group whereas subanalysis of the diet vs surgery groups suggested the same effect in the diet group but failed to reach statistical significance in the surgery group. This suggests a possible weight-loss method-specific effect. PMID: 26469381