THE COCKROACH CONTROVERSY!
There's an urban belief that chocolate may contain cockroach parts, including their eggs and droppings! A Sydney Morning Herald journalist Matt Eaton disputed this "urban myth" in 2004, writing that the strict food safety standards in Australia wouldn't allow cockroaches or their bits into our delicious chocolate goodies. The problem 'tho, is that Matt's article failed to allow for cockroach contamination in raw cacao powder imported from overseas, and that's just where the problem seems to occur. Cockroaches invade the cacao bean harvest at farming sites, where the use of pesticides to control or stop this problem would be more harmful to human health than the odd piece of cockroach or cockroach dropping. Processing of the cacao beans naturally includes the cockroach contaminants and that's how they enter our end products. In fact, America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deems chocolate safe for consumption if it contains less than 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate, and an average chocolate bar includes 8 insect parts!
...BUT WAIT...... THERE'S GOOD NEWS AS WELL! Read on for more info......
THE GOOD NEWS
Mood - A 2008 Finnish study on older people showed significantly less subjective feelings of loneliness, sadness and hopelessness in those who consumed chocolate compared to those who ate other confectionary.
Magnesium – 100 grams of dark chocolate may contain more than 200mg of magnesium! One of my favourite nutrients, magnesium helps to minimise anxiety, irritability and muscle tension
Antioxidants – chocolate contains resveratrol, polyphenols and oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs). These antioxidants reduce cellular ageing and cancer risk.
(a) Insulin resistance – in a small but well-run study, dark chocolate reduced insulin resistance by 45% compared to white chocolate, and increased cellular insulin sensitivity by 12%. This may reduce risk of diabetes type 2, and abdominal obesity
(b) Reduced fat & sugar aborption, reduced appetite – chocolate has been shown to induce satiety (sense of appetite satisfaction), and by reducing sugar and fat absorption, may help in cases of obesity
Blood vessel dilation – in women only, dark chocolate consumption increased nitrous oxide production, causing blood vessel relaxation and raised diameter by 6%, and blood flow volume by 22%. This may have implications for people with blood vessel disease (arteriosclerosis) and reduced blood flow to the brain (vascular dementia), and may reduce the risk of hypertension & stroke (Kuna Indians in Panama)
Dementia – Chocolate promotes better blood flow (as above), and has chemicals that promote brain connectivity, nerve function and neurogenesis (increased brain repair)
THE BAD NEWS
Lead – 10grams of chocolate may contain up to 20% of the daily oral limit for lead in children (there’s a good reason to limit a child’s chocolate intake when they ask!)
Methylxanthines (reflux & PMS) – these alkaloid chemicals may relax the lower oesophageal sphincter, increasing the risk of gastric reflux. Methylxanthines may also worsen the form of PMS associated with fluid retention (Oedema)
Caffeine – up to 80mg caffeine is found in 100grams of dark chocolate. This should be taken into account in the total daily intake of caffeine
Oxalic Acid – may increase the risk of certain types of kidney stones
Acne (controversial) – the jury is still out on this connection. Some original studies disproved the link between chocolate and acne, while other newer ones question the original studies. It’s hard to find definite proof either way, but I do have some clients whose acne improves when I reduce their dietary sugars and fats in total, and their acne increases if they relax their diet. A recent small study showed a definite increase in acne in young males when they consumed chocolate
People with chocolate allergies may actually be having an allergic reaction to the cockroach parts
Signs & symptoms may include skin itching/hives, migraines and asthma
Medical desensitisation with tiny amounts of cockroach may reduce this allergy
Amines in chocolate (especially tyramine) may cause “vasoreactivity” (dilating and constricting blood vessels), causing migraines. Because amines are absorbed better in the presence of fats, chocolate is a common cause of migraines
SO, should we eat chocolate or not? Here's some pointers & my personal opinion.
Remember, positive studies are based on dark chocolate, not milk or white chocolate
From my perspective, the good outweighs the bad
If there’s a personal or family history of heart disease, hypertension, strokes, diabetes or obesity, I think chocolate’s a valuable & enjoyable part of minimising risk
For those with acne that appears to worsen with consumption, or those with kidney stones, gastric reflux or migraines, minimising consumption may help symptoms
I recommend avoidance of the higher fat, higher sugar and lower cocao types of chocolate, and if behavioural or mood issues are involved, choose the types with no colours or flavours
ENJOY YOUR CHOCOLATE!!! .....(or was that cockroach)?