Can Eating Too Much Dark Chocolate Make You Sick?

Woman enjoying chocolate while relaxing at home
A woman relaxing at home with a bar of dark chocolate. (Image: DenizA/iStock/Getty Images)

If you eat too much dark chocolate, you may experience immediate unpleasant symptoms such as indigestion, headache and heartburn. Chocolate's mild psychoactive effects could also produce a feeling of alertness and elation, followed by lethargy and depression. Dark chocolate, a semisweet blend of at least 70 percent cacao powder plus sugar, milk and other ingredients, could also cause rapid weight gain. If you eat moderate amounts of dark chocolate, you should see benefits rather than health problems.

Weight Gain

A 1.5-ounce dark chocolate bar with a cacao content between 70 and 85 percent adds 251 calories to your diet. Eating that many extra calories daily could add 1 pound of fat in just two weeks, writes Dr. Kirsti A. Dyer on the website for Medical Wellness Archives. Half the weight of dark chocolate could come from cocoa butter. Cocoa butter's fats include oleic acid, which helps reduce cholesterol in your blood, and two saturated fats that don't improve cardiovascular health. Palmitic acid actually causes cholesterol levels to increase, and stearic acid shows no effect. Hydrogenated oils added to improve flavor and texture increase the unhealthy fat content.

Diabetes

Eating too much dark chocolate could cause dangerous swings in blood sugar levels if you suffer from diabetes. Dark chocolate's glycemic index rating of 22 makes this treat much safer than milk chocolate, with a rating of 40. Candy chocolate bars average 70 on the glycemic index, producing an even faster rise in blood sugar. Even though less sweet and considered a healthier treat, dark chocolate contains 25 percent glucose by weight. Mildly addictive psychoactive compounds in chocolate satisfy cravings not connected with hunger, potentially influencing you to add sugar to your daily diet for purely emotional reasons.

Hypertension

Cacao powder, the major ingredient in dark chocolate, contributes at least 380 complex chemical compounds to this food. Some of cacao's chemicals influence heart rate and blood pressure as well as overall mood. Phenylethylamine in chocolate causes a rapid heartbeat. The small quantities of stimulants, including caffeine and theobromine in the cocoa butter of dark chocolate, add up if you overindulge. Dark chocolate could cause problems if you already suffer from hypertension or heart disease. Reasonable consumption presents very little risk. To get the same amount of caffeine as found in one cup of coffee, you'd need to eat a dozen chocolate bars, writes Ellen Kuwana on the Neuroscience for Kids website.

Sickness from Allergies

Some types of dark chocolate contain ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions, including milk, nuts or soy ingredients. These allergies can cause you to feel sick after eating, leading to symptoms that can include headaches, dizziness and an odd, metallic taste in your mouth. Allergic reactions to food can turn serious or even life-threatening, so if you develop allergy symptoms after eating chocolate you should seek medical attention.

Recommended Amounts

To avoid unhealthy consequences, limit your intake to an average of an ounce a day, or a total of 7 ounces weekly, advises the University of Michigan. If you're in good health and cut calories elsewhere, you should see improved health from eating dark chocolate. Reasonable amounts of chocolate protect the cardiovascular system from disease. Chocolate's complex makeup provides important trace minerals essential to good health. Flavinols in chocolate could help prevent the growth of cancerous tumors. If you're pregnant or have health conditions such as obesity, heart problems or hypertension, consult your doctor before making dark chocolate a regular part of your diet.

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