Dark Chocolate: Enjoy in Moderation to Avoid Heavy Metal Contamination
Recently, a Consumer Reports study revealed high levels of lead and cadmium in 28 popular dark chocolate bars. This report caused many to reconsider their Valentine’s Day plans, as this chocolate-eating holiday quickly approaches.
Dark chocolate has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease due to its flavonoid content, which are powerful antioxidants. They help reduce cell-damaging free radicals in the body, and can increase insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes. However, the presence of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate can be dangerous for health if ingested in large quantities over time.
California's guidelines on maximum allowable dose level (MADL) of 0.5 micrograms for lead and 4.1 micrograms for cadmium were used to determine which chocolates posed the most risk. Five of the 28 bars tested by Consumer Reports had levels of lead and cadmium below California’s MADL limits. Among the safer bars were Ghirardelli's Intense Dark (at 72% and 86% cacao), Taza's Deliciously Dark (70%), Mast's Dark Chocolate (80%), and Valrhona's Abinao (85%).
In response to the 2018 consent judgment, the National Confectioners Association and nonprofit advocacy group As You Sow – with contributions from more than 30 chocolate companies – released a three-year expert research study. The findings concluded that changes to harvesting and manufacturing processes such as increasing soil pH to reduce cadmium uptake, carefully breeding or genetically engineering plants to take up less cadmium, replacing older cacao trees with younger ones, and removing or treating soil known to be contaminated with cadmium could reduce lead contamination.
The expert committee also recommended eating dark chocolate in moderation, as heavy metals can build up from other foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach. They also suggested choosing dark chocolate bars with higher percentages of cacao, as those have less sugar and more flavanols.
In conclusion, while dark chocolate can be beneficial for heart health due to its flavonoid content, it is important to be aware of the potential risks of heavy metal contamination. Eating dark chocolate in moderation and choosing bars with higher percentages of cacao can give you heart-healthy benefits, while also reducing your exposure to heavy metals.
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