Prof. Dr. Werner Seebauer is, Dean of Studies – Association of German Preventologists, Head of Preventive Medicine Department of Institute of Transcultural Health Sciences (European University Viadrina) and Head of Preventive Medicine – NESA (The New European Surgical Academy). Since 2000, prof. dr. Werner Seebauer worked only in preventive medicine, after ten years spent at the Frankfurt University Hospital. He is also involved in the medical professionals training for nutrition and prevention.
MediHelp International, together with LAMP Insurance, and in collaboration with NESA has created the NESAcard based on the wish to offer access to high standards medical services to patients all over Europe. This way, MediHelp contributes to the medical science development and is actively involved in the international social responsibility advocacy. The following article is part of MediHelp’s approach by providing valuable information about the impact of chocolate consumption upon health.
For millennia, cocoa has been known as a stimulant, with its health-promoting effects people drank cocoa drinks. But nowadays too much of chocolate - especially the chocolate with too little cocoa and high sugar content contribute to obesity and all its subsequent risks.
Usual commercial chocolate has only about 45% cocoa content but 48g sugar and 31g fat per 100g chocolate; it has about 550 kcal per 100g.
Some chocolate producers also add fat like butter or vegetable oils – you should avoid chocolates with palm fat. Often are added artificial substances for flavor and colors. White chocolate does contain cocoa butter but not any cocoa solids. The brighter or whiter the chocolate is, the more it mainly consists fat, sugar and some milk powder.
You should not eat too much of it unless a lot of physical activity burns the calories and prevents too high fat deposits.
However, you will not become overweight or obese at Easter; or between Christmas and New Year, but between New Year and Christmas, if you have too much calories in the long term. The continuous long-term too high calorie intake with too little physical activity cause the overweight.
The composition of the food also plays a role. The too quickly available carbohydrates and the quickly summing calories by fat particularly can contribute substantially to it. That means: “Fast carbs” like different sugar forms – especially fast absorbed in drinks; and fat because it has more than twice as many calories as proteins and carbohydrates in the same amount.
Fast carbohydrates seem to play a dominant role. Research Institutes examined that sugar affect regions of the brain related to overeating (disturbed relationship between hunger and satiety) with stronger impact than fat.
And when “fast carbs” (sugar etc.) are combined with fat, though more calories are reached quickly, but the carbohydrates are not absorbed so fast, which has advantages to the insulin metabolism. So, concerning diabetes, chocolate is less risky compared to sweetened drink or pure sugar-sweets. But higher overweight is always a risk. More about the theme “Weight Management” follows in other newsletters.
Health effects of dark chocolate – of cocoa
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is healthy. The cocoa content should be more than 70% better more than 80%.
Cocoa is rich in valuable phytochemicals, e.g. the large group of flavonoids - they are an important group of over 9000 different phytochemicals that have many health benefits.
The phytochemicals of our food (over 12000 are researched) are very potent protective substances that must also support the organism's detoxification systems. This will be reported in other newsletters.
So also, the flavonoids from the cocoa support this. But as it can be seen in this context from potential sources of harmful substances from healthy foods (see below the topic “Side Effects”), we should make precise distinctions and we should not consume one-sided too much of an even superior grade of food (named “Superfood” for some time). In any case, for the diet the combined variety of different foods is always the best way.
Good for Brain and Heart Health
Cocoa phytochemicals triggers survival pathway of brain cells and neuroprotection by activating “Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor” BDNF. Cocoa powder seems to act as preventive agent against neurodegeneration and research showed evident its beneficial effects against pathophysiological mechanisms in the context of neurodegenerative disorders including such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
The University Heart Center, University Hospital of Zurich studied in clinical controlled trials the effects of cocoa in a targeted manner and found a benefit from daily cocoa consumption in healthy subjects as well in patients with heart risk factors (hypertension) and in patients with coronary heart disease.
They demonstrated the positive effect of flavanol-rich cocoa or chocolate intake on blood pressure reduction and improvement in microvascular and macrovascular function. Also, the reduction of cell damage (bio marker AGEs) caused by too much sugar or fat could be measured.
Other universities too noted this, but, as already mentioned, the dose is decidedly.
And rightly must be noted again that being overweight is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease as well. An important point, as chocolate consumed often in higher amounts is known to contribute to overweight or obesity.
As mentioned, the usual commercial chocolates contain far too little flavonoids but far too much sugar and fat. Furthermore, during the cocoa beans manufacturing process, the total amount of flavanols can be reduced more than 5-fold by fermentation or roasting. Gently sun-dried beans would be better, as seen in the graph. The flavonoid and epicatechin content should be declared on the products.
Di Mattia CD. Et al. Front Immunol. 2017; 8: 1207.
Published online 2017 Sep 29. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2017.01207
Anyway, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (preferably higher than 80%) may contribute to the flavonoids and epicatechins by a healthy snack or dessert.
Risky Side Effects of Chocolate
Too much chocolate is not recommended, not only because in addition to the abundant calories, cocoa can also contain more cadmium (especially cocoa from regions that have a lot of lava ground from volcanoes). Cadmium can be harmful as heavy metal in certain concentration. The risk over the food results also in addition to other heavy metals and toxins as result of a long exposure time.
An intake of cadmium we cannot avoid completely because the wide spread in the nature. In addition to healthy cocoa, healthy flax seeds can be a source of more cadmium intake. Therefore, for both, you should not eat more than 20 g flax seed and 20 g dark chocolate with daily consumption. This is a very simplified message, because the sum of different toxins (from different foods and environmental factors) as well as the place of origin of the food and not least the form of processing are crucial. This topic is also covered in other newsletters
How much dark chocolate should - could it be?
Cocoa beans are one of the richest polyphenol sources but the way to get the healthy diet is to consume a total of Polyphenol-rich foods, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, wine, olive oil (for some people also moderate amount of wine).
About 10 to 20g dark chocolate (70% or better over 80% cocoa solids) per day combined with some berries and some nuts would be very good choice for snack or dessert.
How to store Chocolate
Store chocolate in a cool dry area (18-22°C) in a tightly closed box. Refrigerating does not affect flavor and the health effects, but chocolate will not look nice and is not necessary for storing. Stored properly, dark chocolate will last up to two years or even longer.
We wish you enjoyment and health
Prof. Werner Seebauer & MediHelp