Jump to content
Dean Pomerleau

Composition and Health Implications of Various Chocolate Products

Recommended Posts

In this post to a thread about nuts and mortality, I pointed out that the fatty acid profile in 'bakers chocolate' contains a significant amount of the (probably) harmful 16:0 (palmitic acid) saturated fatty acid than any of usual nuts/seeds that we normally consume, and in fact more than cheese. That got me started on an investigation on the composition, and potential health implications of various chocolate products. As everyone probably knows, the family of different chocolate products is extensive, and the processing that creates them is quite involved. Here is a handy flowchart showing the various steps and products in the chocolate processing pipeline:

 

flowchart.jpg

 

 

 

As you can see, the first step is the pods from the cacao plant are split open to separate the cacao beans, which are allowed to dry and ferment for a few days. These beans are the first edible form of chocolate, and are in fact how I get a significant amount of the chocolate I eat, purchased as 'raw' cacao beans from Nuts.com. Continuing with processing, these beans are split open to remove the 'nibs' and discard the shells, which are edible but mostly fiber (although see below!?) and so don't add much to what we consider the 'chocolaty goodness' - although I rather enjoy the crunchiness of the whole beans sometimes, in moderation of course ;)xyz.

 

The nibs are then ground into what is called chocolate liquor, which is further separated into the fat-free cocoa powder (where most of the healthy polyphenols etc reside) and the cocoa fats called cocoa butter.

 

This cocoa powder and cocoa butter are then mixed back together, along with various other ingredients, and tempered to form the wide variety of chocolate products that we know and love.We can make a list of the various, commonly consumed chocolate-containing products and their ingredients as follows:

  • Cacao Beans = (unprocessed) cocoa powder + (unprocessed) cocoa butter + fiber
  • Cacao Nibs = (roasted) cocoa powder + (roasted) cocoa butter
  • Cocoa Powder = (unsurprisingly) cocoa powder
  • Unsweetened bakers chocolate = (nearly) 100% cocoa powder + cocoa butter
  • Dark Chocolate (70-85% cacao) = 70-85% from cocoa (powder and butter) + 15-30% from other stuff, mostly added sugar.
  • Dark Chocolate (60-69% cacao) = 60-69% from cocoa (powder and butter) + 30-40% from other stuff, mostly added sugar.
  • Milk Chocolate = Dark Chocolate Ingredients + milk or other dairy products
With these seven forms of chocolate in mind, I became curious above the relative nutrient profiles of each. So I decided to try to build a scaled-down table like Zeta's table of nut nutrition, discussed in several threads, but the latest version of which (as of 11/7/2015) is available in this post. In fact, rather than reinventing the wheel, I figured I try to add these six additional items to Zeta's latest nut nutrition table (he already has included baker's chocolate). I realized I can't attach XLS files to posts, so I've emailed Zeta the updated table in case he wants to keep the chocolate items in it. But for the purpose of this post (comparing chocolate products) here is a stripped down, rearranged, slightly augmented version with only the chocolates, and only for the fields I was able to dig up and willing to enter (click to enlarge):
 
post-7043-0-57730500-1447009753_thumb.jpg
 
First, the easy observation. If you are going to eat chocolate in bar form, the four bar options at the bottom show you're getting more chocolate (likely a mixed blessing since it includes the saturated fats) and less added sugar the darker the chocolate you eat. Not surprisingly, as you can see from the two green arrows, fat content drops, and sugar content increases, as you go down in cacao content. The manufacturers are basically substituting sugar (and other ingredients) for real chocolate components as you move away from the darkest form (unsweetened baking chocolate). So, ignoring the (controversial) saturated fat, from a health perspective its probably "the darker the chocolate the better". This web page has good information about the details of dark chocolate, for those interested in learning more about what "cocoa %" really means. 
 
Next, another easy observation. If you want to avoid the saturated fats in chocolate, but still get the healthy polyphenols etc, your best choice is to eat your chocolate in cocoa powder form. Without the fat, it is a lot less calorie dense, and has a lot more fiber than the various chocolates in bar form. Obviously palatability is an issue, but I find mixing it into coffee, perhaps with a little sweetener (I prefer erythritol or pure stevia), makes it quite pleasant. See the bottom of this post for other suggestions in this regard.
 
Now the complicated bit. I was disappointed with the nutrition information I could find on the two least processed forms of chocolate - raw cacao beans and cacao nibs. If fact, I'm skeptical about the nutrition information for these two listed in the table above, especially for the beans.
 
But let me first address the nibs. I expected the nibs to be pretty nearly equivalent to unsweetened baking chocolate in composition, and therefore nutrient content, believing baking chocolate to be (more or less) the melted down nibs formed into bars/squares. But at least if the available nutrition information is to be believed, this isn't the case. Somewhere between nibs and unsweetened baking chocolate, quite a bit of fiber is removed, and (perhaps) replaced by cocoa butter. As you can see from the kcal/g comparison of the two, the baking chocolate is significantly more calorie-dense than the nibs. So, if you're looking to get the good stuff from chocolate, while retaining the "mouth feel" of the fat chocolate normally contains, I'd say its better to go with the nibs rather than baking chocolate. With the nibs, you get more chocolatey-bang for your calorie-buck, and they are less refined than baking chocolate, which is probably a good thing.
 
Finally, my personal favorite, the least refined of all, the raw cacao beans. As I said, I was disappointed with the dearth of nutrition information, and the conflicting information that is available. There is definitely something fishy, which you can see if you compare the beans with the nibs in the table above. The biggest red flag can be seen in the kcal/g comparison. According to the available nutrition information, the beans are more calorie-dense than the nibs. I'm virtually certain this isn't the case. First off, as you can see the nibs are where all the fat is - with the beans containing about half the total fat per 250kcal as the nibs. How can the beans be more calorie dense when they contain half the amount of the densest macronutrient? Something strange is going on.
 
The second red flag with the bean data is that the fiber content per 250kcal is virtually identical between the beans and the nibs (17.9g vs. 17.3g). This seems crazy, since the difference between the dried beans and the nibs is that the beans contains both the nibs and the shells, and the shells have got to be relatively high in fiber.
 
Finally, and most mysteriously, the nutrition data for the beans seems to be missing a whole lot of calories. If we use the (admittedly somewhat naive and inaccurate) Atwater equations for converting from grams of fat, net carbohydrates (i.e. total carbs - fiber) and protein to calories (i.e. calories = 9 * fat + 4 * net_carbs + 4 * protein) we get (9 * 12.5) + (4 * (25 - 17.9)) + (4 * 7.1) = 169.3 kcal. But according to the nutrition database, we're supposed to be looking at a 250kcal portion! So that's 1/3rd of the calories missing. Even if we give a calorie or two per gram for the fiber, there is still quite a few calories missing from the available nutrition data. In contrast, if we apply the basic Atwater equation to the nibs, we get 246.3 kcal for what is supposed to be a 250kcal portion size - i.e. almost perfect, even without adding any extra calories from fiber. 
 
So what I started out this investigation most interested in discovering, namely how the nutrition of raw cacao beans compares to other forms of chocolate, ends up being left pretty much unanswered. I'm going to continue to consume a mixture of (ground) cacao beans and cocoa powder (with more cocoa powder than beans) in my coffee, to get both the pleasure and the health benefits of chocolate.
 
Speaking of health benefits, for anyone who's gotten this far, Dr. Greger just sent a good write-up on the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate, with links his own recipes / strategies for getting the health benefits of chocolate without the saturated fat.
 
--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

In this post to a thread about nuts and mortality, I pointed out that the fatty acid profile in 'bakers chocolate' contains a significant amount of the (probably) harmful 16:0 (palmitic acid) saturated fatty acid than any of usual nuts/seeds that we normally consume, and in fact more than cheese.

What would be the main concerns with dietary 16:0 fatty acids?  It seems like I've read reports from guys consuming large amounts of SFA (eg. 6 egg yolks + added heavy cream +  egg whites cooked in coconut oil with especially fatty bacon and cottage cheese for breakfast, with 2 cups of coffee with added heavy cream, whip cream + cheese with lunch, and high fat ground beef with whole fat yogurt with dinner, followed by a decaf with added heavy cream), which produced a TG:HDL ratio around 0.85, LDL-C lower than HDL-C, a low amount of large LDL particles, with very low fasting insulin, very high insulin sensitivity, and low levels of inflammation.  If the concern isn't inflammation / insulin sensitivity / particle count / particle size / TG:HDL ratios / LDL-C:HDL-C ratios, why would it be best to limit this type of fat?

 

If I recall, heavy metals and aflatoxins (among the most carcinogenic substances known to man) are most heavily concentrated in cocoa husks / shells, and cocoa tends to be one of the foods highest in these contaminants.  It seems like cocoa butter is relatively free of these toxins.

 

On ConsumerLab, Cocoavia (from Mars, Inc) rated quite high in terms of polyphenols : contaminants (with low SFA), but I'm not sure if I like the fact that their "sugar free, unsweetened chocolate" contains more maltodextrin than lecithin with a glycemic index of 136.  It seems like many companies offering nibs / powders / beans have been sent letters for violating proposition 65 laws in California.

Edited by sirtuin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 It seems like I've read reports from guys consuming large amounts of SFA (eg. 6 egg yolks + added heavy cream +  egg whites cooked in coconut oil with especially fatty bacon and cottage cheese for breakfast, with 2 cups of coffee with added heavy cream, whip cream + cheese with lunch, and high fat ground beef with whole fat yogurt with dinner, followed by a decaf with added heavy cream), which produced a TG:HDL ratio around 0.85, LDL-C lower than HDL-C, a low amount of large LDL particles, with very low fasting insulin, very high insulin sensitivity, and low levels of inflammation.  If the concern isn't inflammation / insulin sensitivity / particle count / particle size / TG:HDL ratios / LDL-C:HDL-C ratios, why would it be best to limit this type of fat?

 

Sirtuin,

 

You can't seriously be putting up the anecdotal reports of the bloodwork of 'low carbers' like Peter Attia as evidence that copious amounts of saturated fat is health, can you? The actual scientific evidence is quite clear and been talked about nearly to death recently, that replacing saturated fat with nearly anything else except refined carbs or trans fats will be a significant improvement on health.

 

That said, making an special exception for a modest amount of saturated fat for the benefits of chocolate (not to mention other healthy foods like nuts or olive oil that contain some saturated fat along with other beneficial fats and nutrients) seems like a tradeoff worth making.

 

If I recall, heavy metals and aflatoxins (among the most carcinogenic substances known to man) are most heavily concentrated in cocoa husks / shells, and cocoa tends to be one of the foods highest in these contaminants.  It seems like cocoa butter is relatively free of these toxins.

 

On ConsumerLab, Cocoavia (from Mars, Inc) rated quite high in terms of polyphenols : contaminants (with low SFA), but I'm not sure if I like the fact that their "sugar free, unsweetened chocolate" contains more maltodextrin than lecithin with a glycemic index of 136.  It seems like many companies offering nibs / powders / beans have been sent letters for violating proposition 65 laws in California.

 

I haven't heard about aflatoxins, but heavy metal contamination (e.g. Cadmium in particular) in Cacoa products generally, and more so in the non-fat components (beans, nibs, and cocoa powder) is a concern, as has been discussed here recently. I'm thinking about that one. Stay tuned for a response...

 

--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't heard about aflatoxins, but heavy metal contamination (e.g. Cadmium in particular) in Cacoa products generally, and more so in the non-fat components (beans, nibs, and cocoa powder) is a concern, as has been discussed here recently. I'm thinking about that one. Stay tuned for a response...

 

It looks like nibs might offer the ideal trade-off between SFA / contaminants.  (Although, nibs sold in california are usually sold with a health warning label due to the heavy metal content.)

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814612012083

 

Out of the 168 samples of cocoa by-products evaluated, 158 (94.05%) showed presence of ochratoxin A (LOD = 0.01 μg/kg). The cocoa butter was the product which had the lowest concentration mean (0.03 μg/kg).  On the other hand, the highest contamination was found in a sample of cocoa powder (5.13 μg/kg) and this product was also, on average (1.42 μg/kg), the most contaminated fraction. The distribution of ochratoxin A in animal tissues is well reported, generally following the order kidney > muscle > liver > fat.
 
Another interesting point was that the contamination found in shell (1.13 μg/kg) was about 10 times higher than in nibs (0.10 μg/kg). This suggests that the shelling step and the control of the shell content in cocoa nibs after this step have extreme importance in reducing the presence of ochratoxin A.

 

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713511005640

 

Ochratoxin A was the most common mycotoxin in the evaluated samples, contaminating 98% of the purchased chocolate. A co-occurrence of aflatoxins was observed in 80% of all samples evaluated. The bitter, dark and powdered chocolate samples had the largest presence of aflatoxins.
 
The consumption of chocolate with high levels of cocoa in the formulation has been stimulated due to health benefits attributed to some cocoa components but on the other hand, these high cocoa content products tend to have the highest amount of aflatoxins and ochratoxin A.

 

So, with SFA would the main concerns be cholesterol / inflammation / insulin sensitivity, such that a dieter without those issues might be able to consume these fats freely (as in the case of Peter Attia's log) ?  I can find dozens of studies that show sugars are toxic, yet fruits seem to be beneficial into a high sugar diet (from natural low-toxin foods) particularly at energy balance or a caloric deficit, where it almost follows logically that I might be able to find dozens of studies that show saturated fats are toxic, yet perhaps cocoa / nuts / saturated-fat-rich-fruits are beneficial into a high SFA diet (from natural low-toxin foods) at energy balance or a caloric deficit.

Edited by sirtuin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Sirtuin,

 

It looks like nibs might offer the ideal trade-off between SFA / contaminants.  (Although, nibs sold in california are usually sold with a health warning label due to the heavy metal content.)

 

I'm thinking the ideal tradeoff between saturated fat, heavy metals and (less of a concern - see below), mycotoxins, is to brew one's chocolate in the same way we do coffee.

 

Ochratoxin A was the most common mycotoxin in the evaluated samples, contaminating 98% of the purchased chocolate. A co-occurrence of aflatoxins was observed in 80% of all samples evaluated. The bitter, dark and powdered chocolate samples had the largest presence of aflatoxins.

 

Yes - it appears that Cacao products contain some mycotoxins, including aflatoxins and Ochratoxin A. But as always, the dose makes the poison. To whit:

 

... the highest contamination [of ochratoxin A] as found in a sample of cocoa powder (5.13 μg/kg) and this product was also, on average (1.42 μg/kg), 

 

If we go with the most contaminated sample of the most contaminated form of chocolate (cocoa powder), that gives us a concentration of ochratoxin A of about 5000 ng/kg of cocoa powder (there are 1000 ng per μg). According to [4], the WHO has defined the tolerable daily dose of ochratoxin A as 15 ng/kg body weight. For a 150lb person, that would correspond to a tolerable dosage of about 1000 ng/day of ochratoxin A. So at 5000 ng/kg of cocoa powder, you'd have to eat nearly 1/2 lb, or about 2.5 cups of dry cocoa powder per day to reach the upper tolerable dose. That's a lot of cocoa powder...

 

It isn't just cacao which contains these potentially harmful molds, others include coffee, raisins, oatmeal, beer, wine, peanut butter, nuts, dark chocolate, pork, milk. Dave Asprey, the "Bullet Proof Exec" has made famous his (pretty scammy) "bullet proof coffee", which, in addition to magical "grass fed butter", contains coffee brewed from his own very expensive ($19 + shipping for 12oz!) supposedly-low-mycotoxin coffee beans. He's been widely criticized for massively exaggerating the problem of mycotoxins in coffee. Yes, as with cacao products, coffee beans and brewed coffee contains some mycotoxins, but they are at very low levels. Here is a good article debunking of the disinformation that Asprey promulgates about mycotoxins in coffee, complete with many references. Here is one good quote from the article, showing that, like cocoa powder, you'd need to consume an exorbitant amount of coffee per day to get anywhere close to the tolerable limit of Ochratoxin A:  

 

According to another European study [4], drinking 4 cups of coffee per day contributes to 2% of the Ochratoxin A exposure deemed to be safe by the FAO and WHO… so there is a massive safety margin here.

 

If cancer-causing mycotoxins in coffee or chocolate products were really a problem, then we should see it in the cancer data. But large epidemiological studies, reviewed in this meta-analysis [1], show that high coffee consumption is associated with a nearly 20% reduction in a wide range of cancers. There is a lot less data for chocolate and cancer, but high total dietary flavonoids (incl those from chocolate) was associated with a large decrease in all-cause and cancer mortality [2], and [3] found chocolate flavonoids greatly slowed cancer cell proliferation, at least in vitro.

 

So overall, it doesn't look to me like mycotoxins in cacao products (or coffee) are problem worth worrying about. For anyone still concerned, brewing the beans and discarding the grounds should reduce the levels of mycotoxins, along with SFA and heavy metals, and therefore any residual risk, pretty dramatically.

 

--Dean

 

-----------

[1] BMC Cancer. 2011 Mar 15;11:96. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-11-96.

Coffee consumption and risk of cancers: a meta-analysis of cohort studies.

Yu X(1), Bao Z, Zou J, Dong J.

Author information:
(1)Department of Gastroenterology, Huadong Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai
200040, PR China.

BACKGROUND: Coffee consumption has been shown to be associated with cancer of
various sites in epidemiological studies. However, there is no comprehensive
overview of the substantial body of epidemiologic evidence.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded and
bibliographies of retrieved articles. Prospective cohort studies were included if
they reported relative risks (RRs) and corresponding 95% confidence intervals
(CIs) of various cancers with respect to frequency of coffee intake. We did
random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regressions of study-specific incremental
estimates to determine the risk of cancer associated with 1 cup/day increment of
coffee consumption.
RESULTS: 59 studies, consisting of 40 independent cohorts, met the inclusion
criteria. Compared with individuals who did not or seldom drink coffee per day,
the pooled RR of cancer was 0.87 (95% CI, 0.82-0.92) for regular coffee drinkers,
0.89 (0.84-0.93) for low to moderate coffee drinkers, and 0.82 (0.74-0.89) for
high drinkers. Overall, an increase in consumption of 1 cup of coffee per day was
associated with a 3% reduced risk of cancers (RR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.96-0.98). In
subgroup analyses, we noted that, coffee drinking was associated with a reduced
risk of bladder, breast, buccal and pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial,
esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings from this meta-analysis suggest that coffee consumption may
reduce the total cancer incidence and it also has an inverse association with
some type of cancers.

PMCID: PMC3066123
PMID: 21406107

 

-------------

[2] Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):1012-20. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.073106. Epub 2015
Apr 1.

Flavonoid intake and all-cause mortality.

Ivey KL(1), Hodgson JM(1), Croft KD(1), Lewis JR(1), Prince RL(1).

Comment in
Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 May;101(5):897-8.

BACKGROUND: Flavonoids are bioactive compounds found in foods such as tea,
chocolate, red wine, fruit, and vegetables. Higher intakes of specific flavonoids
and flavonoid-rich foods have been linked to reduced mortality from specific
vascular diseases and cancers. However, the importance of flavonoids in
preventing all-cause mortality remains uncertain.
OBJECTIVE: The objective was to explore the association between flavonoid intake
and risk of 5-y mortality from all causes by using 2 comprehensive food
composition databases to assess flavonoid intake.
DESIGN: The study population included 1063 randomly selected women aged >75 y.
All-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortalities were assessed over 5 y of
follow-up through the Western Australia Data Linkage System. Two estimates of
flavonoid intake (total flavonoidUSDA and total flavonoidPE) were determined by
using food composition data from the USDA and the Phenol-Explorer (PE) databases,
respectively.
RESULTS: During the 5-y follow-up period, 129 (12%) deaths were documented.
Participants with high total flavonoid intake were at lower risk
[multivariate-adjusted HR (95% CI)] of 5-y all-cause mortality than those with
low total flavonoid consumption [total flavonoidUSDA: 0.37 (0.22, 0.58); total
flavonoidPE: 0.36 (0.22, 0.60)]. Similar beneficial relations were observed for
both cardiovascular disease mortality [total flavonoidUSDA: 0.34 (0.17, 0.69);
flavonoidPE: 0.32 (0.16, 0.61)] and cancer mortality [total flavonoidUSDA: 0.25
(0.10, 0.62); flavonoidPE: 0.26 (0.11, 0.62)].
CONCLUSIONS: Using the most comprehensive flavonoid databases, we provide
evidence that high consumption of flavonoids is associated with reduced risk of
mortality in older women. The benefits of flavonoids may extend to the etiology
of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.

PMID: 25832340

-------------

[3] Molecules. 2014 Nov 10;19(11):18317-31. doi: 10.3390/molecules191118317.

In vitro antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of methanolic plant part
extracts of Theobroma cacao.

Baharum Z(1), Akim AM(2), Taufiq-Yap YH(3), Hamid RA(4), Kasran R(5).

The aims of this study were to determine the antioxidant and antiproliferative
activity of the following Theobroma cacao plant part methanolic extracts: leaf,
bark, husk, fermented and unfermented shell, pith, root, and cherelle.
Antioxidant activity was determined using 2,2-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH),
thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS), and Folin-Ciocalteu assays; the
3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium (MTT) assay was used to
determine antiproliferative activity. The root extract had the highest
antioxidant activity; its median effective dose (EC50) was 358.3±7.0 µg/mL and
total phenolic content was 22.0±1.1 g GAE/100 g extract as compared to the other
methanolic plant part extracts. Only the cherelle extract demonstrated 10.4%±1.1%
inhibition activity in the lipid peroxidation assay. The MTT assay revealed that
the leaf extract had the highest antiproliferative activity against MCF-7 cells
[median inhibitory concentration (IC50)=41.4±3.3 µg/mL]. Given the overall high
IC50 for the normal liver cell line WRL-68, this study indicates that T. cacao
methanolic extracts have a cytotoxic effect in cancer cells, but not in normal
cells. Planned future investigations will involve the purification,
identification, determination of the mechanisms of action, and molecular assay of
T. cacao plant extracts.

PMID: 25389662

 

-------------

[4] Food Addit Contam. 1997 Apr;14(3):211-6.

Screening of European coffee final products for occurrence of ochratoxin A (OTA).

vd Stegen G(1), Jörissen U, Pittet A, Saccon M, Steiner W, Vincenzi M, Winkler M,
Zapp J, Schlatter C.

Author information:
(1)Nestlé Research Center, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Samples (633) of final coffee products were drawn from the markets of different
European countries relative to the market share of each product type and brand.
These samples were analysed in a cooperative action with nine different
laboratories. With low limits of detection (mean detection limit approximately
0.5 ng/g) no OTA was found in over half of the samples (334 negatives). In the
remaining samples occurrence of OTA at a rather low level was seen. Only four
samples (all instants) exceeded a level of 10 ng/g, whereas for both instants,
and roast and grounds (R & G), over three-quarters of the samples were in the
range from nondetectable to 1 ng/g. The overall mean for all R & Gs was 0.8 ng/g
and for all instant 1.3 ng/g (for samples in which no OTA was detected, half of
the detection limit was included in this calculation). In the brewing methods
frequently used in Europe the OTA is essentially fully extracted. Consumption of
four cups of coffee per day (approximately 24 g R & G or approximately 8 g
instant coffee) contributes on average 19 or 10 ng/day respectively. Four
cups/day is above the per caput consumption level in most European contries.
Compared with the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) recently set by the
Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives at 100 ng/kg bodyweight/week,
consumption of 28 cups/week contributes up to 2% to the PTWI.

PMID: 9135718

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dean, thanks for your excellent, well-researched, educational posts here in this thread! Sometimes (esp. when it comes to your and Michael's posts) a post is so thorough that there's not much to say in response -- one learns, and, in many cases, changes one's behavior. So the poster might be left wondering whether "anyone is listening". So I just wanted to note that I'm listening! (As are many others, and I'm also listening to you in many other posts I haven't had time to respond to yet -- busy with work these days).

 

Brewing is an excellent idea. My hesitation is mainly about convenience. I'm spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days, mostly soaking and sprouting seeds and nuts (that 3rd post on nuts will eventually come). The Baker's decision for me was thus part convenience, and part safety-oriented (low-Cd). But I'm going to study this thread when I have more time and possibly switch to brewing.

 

Zeta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dean, thanks for your excellent, well-researched, educational posts here in this thread! Sometimes (esp. when it comes to your and Michael's posts) a post is so thorough that there's not much to say in response -- one learns, and, in many cases, changes one's behavior. So the poster might be left wondering whether "anyone is listening". So I just wanted to note that I'm listening!

Well said Zeta, and I concur.

Edited by Greg Scott

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sometimes (esp. when it comes to your and Michael's posts) a post is so thorough that there's not much to say in response -- one learns, and, in many cases, changes one's behavior. So the poster might be left wondering whether "anyone is listening". So I just wanted to note that I'm listening! (As are many others, and I'm also listening to you in many other posts I haven't had time to respond to yet -- busy with work these days).

 

This is how I feel about most of their posts as well. I'm sure in person I'd make some comments and generally praise the effort and quality of information, but I'm otherwise left feeling mostly content and in agreement. Thanks for saying this so I could simultaneously express my gratitude and that I do read through almost every post here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Zeta, Scott and James for your kind words of appreciation. They means a lot to me. I too often find myself trying to come up with something meaningful to add to a helpful / informative post by someone else, mostly so that I have an excuse to publicly thank them for their efforts. Sometimes I resort to an off-forum email or message, so as not to clutter a thread with a simple "thank you".

 

 

Brewing [chocolate - I presume] is an excellent idea. My hesitation is mainly about convenience. I'm spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days, mostly soaking and sprouting seeds and nuts (that 3rd post on nuts will eventually come). The Baker's decision for me was thus part convenience, and part safety-oriented (low-Cd). But I'm going to study this thread when I have more time and possibly switch to brewing.

 

Zeta

 

I hear you Zeta. I'm experimenting with a zero-additional-effort solution that you in particular might appreciate. I've mixed together (in 1:1 ratio for now) ground coffee and ground brewing chocolate. I'm experimenting with both hot and cold brewing of this mix. So far I'm really enjoying the combination, and it takes no more effort than brewing coffee alone.

 

Plus, mixing ground coffee and ground cacao together has an added advantage. Unlike ground coffee, I find ground cacao taste great plain - just like the beans it is made from. By mixing a batch of ground chocolate with ground coffee, and keeping the rest of the cacao squirrelled away where it isn't easily accessed, I'm not tempted to snack on it, but can nevertheless enjoy it in moderation and in healthy brewed form every day.

 

--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dean, excellent suggestion about combining the two. The problem for me is that I am now a committed coldbrew coffee drinker, and I'm not sure the chocolate (or any cacao product) will brew well cold.

 

By the way, I should also take a moment to thank James for the research updates! I have tons of them bookmarked, in two folders, one "Read!!", the other "Respond" (the latter: have read, and want to respond; the former: seems like they could be really important). My life is a little messy now, and my health situation has me preoccupied such that any writing effort that requires a lengthy expositional trajectory, thus demanding extended focus, feels beyond me. I'm hopiong that will change soon.

 

Zeta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 I'm not sure the chocolate (or any cacao product) will brew well cold.

 

Are you talking about how well cold brewing of cacao will work with respect to polyphenol extraction or taste?

 

As for the polyphenol extraction, I don't see why it would be any different from coffee or tea - which I have some questions about, but am willing to grant that it may be as good as hot brewing.

 

As for taste, I don't notice substantial difference between cold-brewed and heat-brewed cacao, although I have to admit I'm not a connoisseur of brewed chocolate, or coffee/tea for that matter.

 

--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not thinking about taste, I'm thinking about the extent of the polyphenol extraction. But, again, maybe it's back to the idea that extraction just takes more time at lower temperatures because there's less "bouncing into each other" of the relevant molecules. (Yet: this article suggests there is a threshold for the extraction of some substances in coffee.) I just dug a bit into the question on PubMed and found nothing.

 

Any chemists out there?

 

Even if there isn't a threshold effect, the relation between rate of extraction and temperature might not be linear. I can imagine, for example, that certain large molecules might be more readily drawn into the infusing water with multiple very high energy H2O molecules bumping into them, and that they can resist a small number of H2O molecules in a such a way that it's almost like a threshold effect.

 

Zeta

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Zeta. I too am uncertain about the relative effectiveness of extraction of polyphenols via hot and cold brewing. As a result, I'm hedging my bets - for coffee, tea and cacao. I'm brewing and consuming some of each both ways - per my strategy of diversification.

 

BTW, here is a really interesting, pretty short video on the steps in cacao processing. Here is a video showing the complete chocolate bar making process.

 

--Dean

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a new study [1] posted by Al (thanks Al!) showing the benefits of cocoa flavanols on vascular stiffness. Once again it looks like chocolate is good for you, at least if not taken with too much dairy or sugar...

 

---------

[1] Impact of cocoa flavanol intake on age-dependent vascular stiffness in

healthy men: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial.

 

Heiss C, Sansone R, Karimi H, Krabbe M, Schuler D, Rodriguez-Mateos A,
Kraemer T, Cortese-Krott MM, Kuhnle GG, Spencer JP, Schroeter H, Merx MW,
Kelm M; FLAVIOLA Consortium, European Union 7th Framework Program.
 

Free full text:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444618/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444618/pdf/11357_2015_Article_9794.pdf

Abstract

Increased vascular stiffness, endothelial dysfunction, and isolated systolic
hypertension are hallmarks of vascular aging. Regular cocoa flavanol (CF)
intake can improve vascular function in healthy young and elderly at-risk
individuals. However, the mechanisms underlying CF bioactivity remain
largely unknown. We investigated the effects of CF intake on cardiovascular
function in healthy young and elderly individuals without history, signs, or
symptoms of cardiovascular disease by applying particular focus on
functional endpoints relevant to cardiovascular aging. In a randomized,
controlled, double-masked, parallel-group dietary intervention trial, 22
young (<35 years) and 20 elderly (50-80 year) healthy, male non-smokers
consumed either a CF-containing drink (450 mg CF) or nutrient-matched,
CF-free control drink bi-daily for 14 days. The primary endpoint was
endothelial function as measured by flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD).
Secondary endpoints included cardiac output, vascular stiffness, conductance
of conduit and resistance arteries, and perfusion in the microcirculation.
Following 2 weeks of CF intake, FMD improved in young (6.1±0.7 vs. 7.6±0.7
%, p < 0.001) and elderly (4.9±0.6 vs. 6.3±0.9 %, p < 0.001). Secondary
outcomes demonstrated in both groups that CF intake decreased pulse wave
velocity and lowered total peripheral resistance, and increased arteriolar
and microvascular vasodilator capacity, red cell deformability, and
diastolic blood pressure, while cardiac output remained affected. In the
elderly, baseline systolic blood pressure was elevated, driven by an
arterial-stiffness-related augmentation. CF intake decreased aortic
augmentation index (-9 %) and thus systolic blood pressure (-7 mmHg;
Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT01639781). CF intake reverses age-related burden of
cardiovascular risk in healthy elderly, highlighting the potential of
dietary flavanols to maintain cardiovascular health.

PMID: 26013912 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent summary, Dean.

I am wondering if I am doing the wise thing by eating cacao nibs, primarily because of the palmitic acid, and to a lesser extent the stearic acid present in them.

I have been eating cacao nibs virtually every day, for years, and my numbers do not show any particular adverse effects, on the contrary, they are better than most people's my age. But my diet and lifestyle are also different that those of most people my age, so....

Here is some stuff I found to give me comfort:

"The body of short-term randomized feeding trials suggests cocoa and chocolate may exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk via effects on lowering blood pressure, anti-inflammation, anti-platelet function, higher HDL, decreased LDL oxidation. Additionally, a large body of trials of stearic acid suggests it is indeed cholesterol-neutral. However, epidemiologic studies of serum and dietary stearic acid are inconclusive due to many methodologic limitations. Meanwhile, the large body of prospective studies of flavonoids suggests the flavonoid content of chocolate may reduce risk of cardiovascular mortality. Our updated meta-analysis indicates that intake of flavonoids may lower risk of CHD mortality, RR = 0.81 (95% CI: 0.71–0.92) comparing highest and lowest tertiles."
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1360667/

 

This is from the keto crowd, which I usually find less than sensible, but in this case it agrees with me 🙂 : https://perfectketo.com/cacao-butter/
 

This is from livestrong...: https://www.livestrong.com/article/521518-palmitic-acid-health-benefits/

And then there is this: Chronic administration of palmitoleic acid reduces insulin resistance and hepatic lipid accumulation in KK-Ay Mice with genetic type 2 diabetes.

Edited by Ron Put

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"This is from the keto crowd, which I usually find less than sensible...":

Quote

#1. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Death

Cacao butter may improve your overall heart health. In a study involving 470 Dutch men without preexisting cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, daily cocoa intake significantly lowered their chance of premature death and heart disease[*]. It was also found that those who consumed a higher amount of cocoa (2.3g per day compared to 0.36g) also had a 50% less chance of developing heart diseases. Another study in Sweden found that patients who had chocolate twice a week or more were 66% less likely to die from cardiac arrest compared to people who didn’t have it regularly[*].A similar finding surfaced in a study conducted on heart failure and chocolate consumption in elderly and middle-aged women. Over 31,000 women took part in a nine-year-long research about chocolate intake and its health consequences, with consumption rates ranging from zero up to two servings per week [*].This study showed that regular chocolate consumers had a lower rate of hospitalizations and deaths connected to heart failure, and improved cardiovascular health.The results also demonstrated a slight decrease in heart disease risk in patients who consumed three to six servings each week, or at least one serving per day.

#2. Reduced Diabetes and Stroke Risk 

In a 2017 study, researchers discovered a 35% decrease in diabetes in men who ate chocolate weekly[*]. Another scientific investigation, conducted by two Japanese universities and the National Cancer Center of Japan, showed that people with a higher chocolate intake lowered their risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) by a whopping 39%[*].Cacao butter is also incredibly rich in oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid, which are vital antioxidants that not only increase healthy longevity but also lower stroke risk [*].

#3. Decreased Inflammation

While reviewing several studies on cocoa, a group of researchers found that the phytonutrients with antioxidative effects (flavonoids) inside this powerful bean lowered inflammatory biomarkers in as little as two to six hours[*]. That same review examined a study which specifically found these anti-inflammatory effects to be more prominent in healthy individuals as opposed to those with previous inflammation and vascular issues.The positive results also depended on the type of cocoa being used since not every type contains the same amount of beneficial flavanols. You can find cacao butter in dark chocolate, white chocolate, and even milk chocolate.

 

The hypothesis is that "cacao butter may improve your overall heart health",  yet all the cited studies show benefits from cocoa or chocolate consumption,  not cacao butter per se.  That last sentence above is a real non-sequitur!  Flavanols are found in cocoa solids, not cacao butter;  white chocolate has no cocoa solids.

Quote

Cacao butter is also incredibly rich in oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid, which are vital antioxidants that not only increase healthy longevity but also lower stroke risk [*].

The reference, however,  provides zero evidence for that contention.

Antioxidants Tied to Lower Stroke Risk (2010)

The only possibly relevant passage is:

Quote

Note that antioxidants come from a variety of food sources, including fruits, vegetables, coffee, chocolate, red wine, whole grain cereals, and nuts.

But there's no discussion at all of  oleic acid, palmitic acid, or stearic acid.

While the article may make some valid points elsewhere,  overall it's a really shoddy piece of work, imho.

Edited by Sibiriak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there are a lot of confounders wrt. what exactly is responsible for various health benefits, and what form it's best to take them. Is is cacao, c. butter, chocolate etc. 

FWIW, a lot of us speculated that if it is the polyphenols in cacao, then you can actually extract them the same way you extract beneficial polyphenols from the coffee bean - i.e. by drinking brewed coffee. This is the genesis of Dean's Witches Brew which was extensively discussed in several threads - something which I indulge in to this day daily (at present: 1/4 cup coffee beans freshly ground + teaspoon of undutched cacao powder + pinch white tea leaves + pinch matcha + teaspoon olive leaf powder - all brewed in a coffee machine and run through a paper coffee filter). The idea being that cacao polyphenols end up in your cup, while the paper filter grabs possible heavy metal contaminants and various fats. Now, apparently the polyphenols are extracted and do make it through the paper filter - but are those compounds substantially responsible for the various claimed CV benefits, one can't be sure. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting. But, you lose the fiber and who knows what else.

As I posted in another thread, I am going to stick with eating "raw" cacao nibs. My take is, they are the least processed and still edible cacao product, and I actually like thhe texture and taste. Chewing them does not render them as fine as powder, which to me means that even after gut fermentation, some of it passes trough, after making my microbes happy. We all need a little saturated fat to function, including palmitic acid and in cacao, it is found in what I understand is a desirable proportion with oleic acid.

In that other thread, mccoy and Sibiriak noted that without CV issues present, the saturated fat in cacao nibs is unlikely to be of concern. I just came across an article discussing palmitic acid specifically, which supports such assertion:

"... reported no association of CHD risk between subjects with levels in the top versus bottom fifth of the distribution of palmitic acid, after adjusting for a range of potential confounding risk factors (Wu et al., 2011). Similarly, no association was found in another US-based study, Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC; Wang et al., 2003a), and in a Japanese study, Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS; Itakura et al., 2011). A potential detrimental effect was reported in the subjects at high baseline cardiovascular risk enrolled in multiple risk factor intervention trial (MRFIT), although only when levels of palmitic acid were measured in cholesterol esters (CEs; Simon et al., 1995). When measured in PLs, no significant association was observed."
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/palmitic-acid

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

My take is, they are the least processed and still edible cacao product,

 

That's an important point.    I think I'm going to try some if I can find them locally.

Edited by Sibiriak

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×