Are There Adverse Effects of Raw Chocolate?

Cocoa pods
Cocoa pods growing on a tree. (Image: m-chin/iStock/Getty Images)

The primary ingredient in chocolate is cacao, a bean that grows in the South American rain forest. Most commercial chocolate goes through a roasting process. Raw chocolate has not been roasted, so consumers of raw chocolate are eating raw cacao with a few additional ingredients to hold it together. Though raw chocolate is high in vitamin C, as well as minerals such as magnesium and iron, it has been known to have adverse health effects.

Caffeine Jitters

The cacao bean, like the coffee bean, contains caffeine. In raw chocolate, the caffeine content is higher than in processed, roasted chocolate. Caffeine raises anxiety levels in many consumers and speeds up the heart rate. It provides short energy bursts that are often accompanied by notable decreases in energy levels. Individuals who consume raw chocolate before bed may have trouble sleeping. In addition, caffeine is an addictive substance. Consumers who become used to consuming caffeine through chocolate may need to eat correspondingly larger amounts to avoid the drowsiness of caffeine withdrawal.

Unsanitary Ingredients

According to holistic self-help author Cynthia Perkins, chocolate commonly contains traces of insect and rodent fecal matter. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States permits up to 16 insect fragments and one rodent hair per chocolate bar. It also allows 10 milligrams of rodent droppings in every pound of cacao beans, and 75 insect fragments for every three tablespoons of chocolate powder. The commercial chocolate roasting process eliminates most diseases and parasites that could spread through these trace amounts of unsanitary organic matter, but consumers of raw chocolate are more susceptible to adverse effects.

Toxicity to Dogs

The presence of a stimulant called theobromine makes chocolate toxic to dogs, according to the online magazine Dog Owner's Digest. Theobromine occurs naturally in the cacao bean and affects a dog's central nervous system. A dog that eats too much chocolate will display symptoms such as vomiting, excessive urination or hyperactivity. More serious symptoms can include an irregular heartbeat, seizures and death. The cacao content is more concentrated in raw chocolate than in milk chocolate, so a few grams of raw chocolate would be more dangerous to a dog than the equivalent amount of milk chocolate.

Hallucinogenic Effects

Extremely high doses of raw cacao can produce hallucinogenic effects similar to LSD, according to nutritionist and author Frederic Patenaude. Though the average person would have to consume about 40 of the bitter cacao beans to feel this effect, this is not an exceptional amount. According to the California Academy of Arts and Sciences, which hosted an exhibition honoring chocolate in 2005, it only takes 30 to 50 cacao beans to produce seven milk chocolate bars or two dark chocolate bars.

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