Known for its delicious taste, chocolate is loved by many. In 2015, worldwide chocolate sales exceeded 100 billion dollars. And while chocolate has some health benefits, these alleged advantages may come at a price. The author of a January 2015 review in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management noted several negative health effects of chocolate consumption.
Food allergies affect millions of people. Undeclared allergens often trigger product recalls. An April 2017 paper in the Journal of Food Protection showed that many chocolate bars contain undeclared allergens like milk and nuts. These foods can cause severe reactions in some people. Such contamination often happens even when manufacturers label the product as safe.
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Read more: Can You All of a Sudden Be Allergic to Nuts?
Chocolate may also contain undeclared toxins. A March 2018 report in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis showed that both processed chocolate and raw cocoa had unsafe levels of cadmium and nickel. These heavy metals accumulate in your body and may cause permanent damage. Unfortunately, children around the world may get unacceptable exposure to heavy metals from eating chocolate.
Antigen contamination provides one of the biggest risks of chocolate production. Modern manufacturing practices have greatly decreased this risk. Still, 25 percent of chocolate samples had bacterial contamination when examined during a study featured in a 2015 article in the journal Food Control. Interestingly, the cocoa beans showed little contamination, so the contamination occurred during processing. Enterobacteriaceae on the workers' hands revealed the source.
Read more: Effects of Contaminated Food
Obesity affects about 36 percent of the American population, and the empty calories in chocolate may play a role. A March 2015 paper in Obesity looked at the correlation between eating chocolate candy and gaining weight. Researchers surveyed postmenopausal people over a three-year period. The results showed that women who had a higher intake of chocolate were more likely to gain weight.
Chocolate and Heartburn
The negative side effects of chocolate may include heartburn. According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, chocolate decreases esophageal sphincter pressure, a change that can make you vulnerable to heartburn. In fact, a bulletin from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends avoiding chocolate as a way to prevent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.
Chocolate and Cancer
Eating chocolate offers many flavonoids. These antioxidants have been though to help fight cancer. Yet, the authors of a July 2016 article in BMC Cancer suggested otherwise. These researchers surveyed several thousand people with prostate cancer. Correlations indicated that greater chocolate intake made it more likely a participant had cancer. The authors considered several explanations for this surprising result. For example, the high carbohydrate content of most chocolate products may have contributed. Sugar-free chocolate may offer the benefits of cocoa without increasing your risk of obesity and cancer.
- Food Research International: Environmental Impacts of Chocolate Production and Consumption in the UK
- Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management: Overview of Scientific Evidence for Chocolate Health Benefits
- Journal of Food Protection: A Limited Survey of Dark Chocolate Bars Obtained in the United States for Undeclared Milk and Peanut Allergens
- Journal of Food Composition and Analysis: Nickel, Cadmium and Lead Levels in Raw Cocoa and Processed Chocolate Mass Materials From Three Different Manufacturers
- Talanta: Trace Elements in Cocoa Solids and Chocolate
- Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: State‐of‐the‐Art Chocolate Manufacture
- Food Control: Enterobacteriaceae Contamination in Chocolate Processing
- Obesity: Chocolate-candy Consumption and Three-Year Weight Gain Among Postmenopausal U.S. Women
- BMC Cancer: Total Antioxidant Intake and Prostate Cancer in the Cancer of the Prostate in Sweden (CAPS) Study
- Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health: Human Health Effects From Cadmium Exposure
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: How Can Your Diet Help Prevent or Relieve GER or GERD?
- Diet and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)