Is Chocolate Medicinal?

Did you know?  Chocolate was once marketed to consumers for its health benefits.  According to Smithsonian:

  • In the 1700-1800s, chocolate was prescribed for a variety of diseases
  • Chocolate’s calories helped victims of wasting disease regain weight
  • Chocolate’s caffeine helped patients feel livelier and more energetic
  • Chocolate’s rich flavor helped disguise the bitter taste of other medications

“Few substances are so eagerly taken by children or invalids, and fewer still are better than [chocolate] for masking the taste of bitter of nauseous medicinal substances,” says an 1899 pharmaceutical text.

Even today, dark chocolate is marketed as a healthy chocolate option.  This is because dark chocolate contains flavanols, chemical compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can aid your cardiovascular health.

Many chocoholics believe that the purity of the dark chocolate is an indicator of how healthy it is.  But while many countries require manufacturers to declare the amount of nonfat cocoa solids (NFCS) in chocolate, they are not required to declare the amount of flavanols.

UK researchers used an Agilent HPLC-DAD System to measure flavanol levels in 12 popular chocolate brands.  They discovered that there is no correlation between NFCS levels and flavanol levels.

“Stated levels of % cocoa solids on chocolate bar labels give a fair but not excellent indication of flavonoid content,” the researchers found.

“The two 100% cocoa solids chocolates tested varied 3-fold in their levels of total flavanols, whereas one sample with only 63% of stated cocoa solids was found to have the second highest content of total flavanols in the range of analyzed chocolates, surpassing all other dark chocolates within the 70% cocoa solids bracket by >2-fold.”

“Because dark chocolate is increasingly being marketed as a healthy option,” the researchers conclude, “it may be necessary to consider new labeling requirements.”

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