Facts About Expensive “Health” Chocolates, Lead in Chocolate and Other Confusing Things

Magnesium loaded cocoa fruitsWe are seeing a near hysterical rise in chocolate health claims, both good and bad, followed by some major marketing campaign encouraging people to buy very expensive health chocolate. The latter use terms such as organic, cold-pressed, free-trade and (the clincher) lead-free.

I mean, who wouldn’t want lead-free chocolate? Would we deny our body the same health consideration we give our Toyota’s gas tank? Worse, would we knowingly feed lead to our kids?

Obviously, this fear is so great that company’s can sell cocoa “superfoods” under names such as Xocai and Chava Vital Chocolate. The ad I clicked for Xocai promises “Healthy Chocolate Eat Dark Chocolate Enjoy health benefits Earn money while doing it.” Notice the lack of punctuation. That’s so they can jam more words in and still be under the maximum character count allowed by many ad companies. Notice also how they sell “earn money.” That’s a good indicator that it’s not about the chocolate..or even about the health. They appeal to 3 things fear of death, hunger for sweets, and desire for money. Everything’s there but sex, but the word count restrictions probably forced them to leave that off.

Apparently though, Xocai has been making some people money, as this multi-level marketing racket is still around, and now even has competition, from Chava Vital Chocolate. Chava’s health chocolate is also another multi-level marketing company, but they are very slick. Their ads are almost good enough to make be dig into my pocket and pay $145 for a box of chocolate wafers that looks very much like one I can get at my local supermarket $5.

They, too, say they can make me rich, if I just send in $29.95 for a marketing kit. (I didn’t look at the upsells, but $29 probably just gets your foot in the door.) Heck, 12000 people a month visit this website…they’ve got me thinking.

Ah, forget it, I’M too old to go for this crap. Let’s look at the facts:

  • These outrageously priced health chocolates are probably pretty good quality. I guess this because for a fraction of the price they’re charging, it’s possible to sell the finest chocolates available. At $145, you’d think they would cover their bases in this regard.
  • They have wisely guessed that many consumers will just search for lower priced super fine chocolates on the net, at places like this guide to organic chocolates. But, Xocai and Chava are prepared. Xocai chocolate includes acai berry extracts, and Chava chocolate includes a mysterious almond extract. I know little about either, except that you can obtain them separately elsewhere for much less expense. Let’s stick to the chocolates.
  • Cocoa does in fact have many benefits. Besides being one of the world’s richest sources of dietary magnesium, it is loaded with flavinols and anti-oxidents. It goes on..a Cornell University study showed that cocoa powder has nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine, and up to three times the antioxidants found in green tea. Cocoa is a good source of calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, manganese and some of the B Vitamins. It has a high content of sulfur, which helps build strong nails and hair, as well as healthy and beautiful skin, helps to detoxify the liver, and supports the healthy functioning of the pancreas. The heart-healthy flavanols found in cocoa, especially the epicatechins, stop fatty substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries. They also help prevent blood platelets from sticking together to cause blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes – all without the negative side effects associated with the use of aspirin and other pharmaceutical blood-thinners. Cocoa also contains the amino acid Tryptophan which makes serotonin and prevents feelings of depression. Cocoa contains dopamine, phenylethylamine (PEA), anandamide MAO Inhibitors – good for both the brain and the heart Phenylethylamine (PEA) increases mental alertness and the ability to concentrate, and can be of help to students taking tests, as well as to senior citizens who want to retain their mental capacity. Other studies have suggested that consuming dark chocolate produced an increased sensitivity to insulin (which indicates a protective effect against diabetes.
  • Cocoa has other things that may or may not be good for you, though on balance cocoa seems pretty darn healthy. Chocolate, on the other hand, usually has enough sugar, oils and additives to balance against the benefits of the cocoa content.
  • Raw cocoa is probably much healthier than processed cocoa powder. In fact, scientists in Spain discovered that they could boost the flavinol levels in Cocoa Fruits with cocoa beans inside - baby health chocolatecocoa by 7 times when they skipped the conventional fermentation and roasting steps used in processing cocoa beans.
  • Cocoa beans may have relatively high levels of lead. There are several studies, and even the Nigerian cocoa board admits as much. The lead may come from the process after harvest, partly because Nigeria still uses unleaded gasoline that affects the local air. It may be from the soil, or from agricultural chemicals. Yet, it’s there, especially in cocoa from Nigeria. Still, while large chocolate companies need to buy large volumes of beans and can’t get around this issue, smaller chocolate companies can be more particular about what cocoa they buy. Also, one study compared the levels of lead to those found in boiled shrimp. So the levels are not off the food charts. They are just high when compared to most foods.
  • Buying cold-pressed, or raw chocolate might be a good idea – and it is widely available on the web. There is no need to buy Xocai or Chava chocolate unless you plan to get rich selling it to the next sucker down the line. And while I would guess that health chocolate is lead-free, I haven’t actually seen any proof of it in the form of objective tests.

Cocoa is a super food high in magnesium, and I recommend moderate consumption. Don’t rely on it as a cure-all. And stay away from the brands that have highly touted health claims and which use multi-level marketing, unless you have money to burn. And remember, chocolate can be healthy, but health chocolate can be harmful to your wallet, so use the money to buy some nice fresh foods instead.


Magnesium Absorption and Effects of Other Supplements

Magnesium and fat from pork - what's the deal?The good news is, the fat you eat may be giving you more magnesium – even though it may not be a magnesium rich food itself.

At least sometimes.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, despite the demonization of fat, it has been a staple part of the human diet dating back to dawn of hunting and fire. Indeed, insufficient fat was a much bigger concern throughout most of history. As always, abundance turns the world upside down, and fat got on the wrong side of many dieticians, not to mention dieters.

Well, here’s a reason to make sure you have at least some fat in your diet. But, before you get too exited, evidence has shown that excess fat can actually block the absorption of magnesium.

So here goes – things that help you absorb more magnesium:

FAT

A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 80, No. 2, 396-403, August 2004) looked at a small group of people to compare their absorption of carotenoids when eating salads with fat-free dressing as opposed to regular salad dressing with oil. Lo and behold, those who went fat-free absorbed almost no carotenoids, suggesting that the fat was needed for the body to access the nutrients.

I am very much opposed to “fat-free” concoctions for a number of reasons, not least being the manufactured crap they use to trick your body into tasting fat. Here’s another. If you’re worried about too much fat, do the old fashioned thing and reduce your portions. Your portions may be small, but at least they’ll be real, delicious and healthy.

VITAMIN C

Often cited as assisting magnesium absorption, there is very little evidence either way. But, since vitamin C is generally good for you, I’d rather err on the side of taking my supplements.

VITAMIN D

A 1972 study in the International Urology and Nephrology Journal in the Netherlands suggested that vitamin D could be helpful in assisting patients who needed greater absorption of magnesium through the intestine. This has been backed up by other studies, including “The Journal of Nutrition” study published in 1991.

However, and this is a big “however,” the 1991 study showed that vitamin D greatly increased the excretion of magnesium through the urine!

Easy come, easy go.

The jury is out on Vitamin D, but at the very least vitamin D supplements would seem to be unnecessary for magnesium absorption.

CALCIUM

This is a biggy. Many websites will tell you that calium is a magnesium antagonist, inhibiting its entry into cells. Other sites will tell you that they need each other. Magnesium helps calcium to work, and vice versa. They are in fact friends.

Not to confuse you, but all of the above appears to be true. Maybe it’s best to think of calcium of magnesium as a turbulent married couple (or even Tweedledee and Tweedledum)- not always helpful to each other, yet they both needCalcium and Magnesium are Tweedledum and Tweedledee the other. There’s a fine balance between the blow out fights, the affairs, and the love and support.

In the case of magnesium and calcium, many people have decided that the ration of 2 parts calcium to one part magnesium is this perfect ration.

This 2 to 1 ratio appears to be plucked out of thin air.

In fact, in Japan, which has a very low rate of heart disease, the ration is closer to 1/1.

The only thing I can say here is to take it easy on the calcium supplements.

VITAMIN B6

Long term, and massive doses, of oral vitamin B6 appear to boost magnesium levels. Since massive doses of anything should only be administered by a competent physician, just put this in the back of your mind. B6 shots will temporarily boost magnesium levels, and at the same time crash your calcium levels. So while B6 does encourage magnesium retention, it’s not something you’d want to try lightly.

A GOOD MEAL and MINERAL WATER

If you’re getting your magnesium from mineral water, a 2002 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that, while 50% of the water’s magnesium was absorbed when drunk without food, that amount greatly increased when the water was taken with a meal. To which we say “bon apetit!”

Going back to the fat, since most magnesium rich nuts, such as almonds and cashews, contain oil, you’re probably better off munching on them. So far as other supplements to boost your magnesium absorption, just forget it. Keep your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and carbonated drinks to a minimum, eat fresh foods, and especially green leafy things. Don’t go into mad scientist mode trying to make the perfect supplement concoction. Eat foods high in magnesium and enjoy life!