Are You Worried About Lead In Your Chocolate?

You may have already heard abut some of the negative aspects of chocolate  –

Chocolate is believed to cause heartburn because of one of its constituents, theobromine, relaxes the esophageal sphincter muscle, hence permitting stomach acidic contents to enter into the esophagus. Theobromine is also toxic to many animals because they are unable to metabolize it . 

The unconstrained consumption of large quantities of any energy-rich food, such as chocolate, without a corresponding increase in activity, increases the risk of obesity. Raw chocolate is high in cocoa butter, a fat which is removed during chocolate refining, then added back in varying proportions during the manufacturing process. Manufacturers may add other fats, sugars, and milk as well, all of which increase the caloric content of chocolate.

Chocolate and cocoa contain moderate to high amounts of oxalate, which can cause some health concerns particularly for individuals at risk for kidney stones. It may also block iron absorbtion.>
Research on elderly people showed chocolate might cause osteoporosis.
A few studies have documented allergic reactions with chocolate in children.
There is some evidence that chocolate may be addictive.

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Now read on about the more recent concerns.

Lead in chocolate a ‘health concern’ for overindulgent children, warn researchers


By Oliver Nieburg+


Young children risk exceeding recommended limits for lead when consuming chocolate in excess, according to a study published in the journal Talanta.

 Research by Yanus et al. assessing the human risk of trace metals in chocolate said that although the lead concentration found in a variety of global brands analyzed was below the US Pharmacopeia (USP) 1,000 ng/g limit, the lead concentration should, “still be considered a health concern”.

Risk exceeding daily limit

“Children, who are big consumers of chocolates, may be at risk of exceeding the daily limit of Pb[lead], due to their low body weight and higher digestive tract uptake,” said the Israeli researchers.

“They may be vulnerable to lead exposure from these products – one cube of dark chocolate can contain up to 20% of the lead oral limit; furthermore chocolate may not be the only source of lead in their nutrition thus increasing the risk of exceeding the daily limit.”

The same risk does not apply to adults, whose digestive absorption of metals is poor.

The more cocoa solids, the more lead

The research found a correlation between a high cocoa solid content and high levels of lead.

“In large quantities it is preferable for children to eat milk or white chocolates than eating dark chocolates [which have a higher cocoa solid concentration],” said the study.

Earlier research has shown that lead takes a long time to exit the body and in a short time can cause health problems in children including vomiting, constipation and weight loss as well as behavioural changes, slowed growth and memory and impaired language development.

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Where does the lead in chocolate come from?

  • Chocolate absorbs lead from the environment during production, and there is a slight concern of mild lead poisoning for some types of chocolate. In a study from Nigeria, the average lead concentration of cocoa beans was less than 0.5 ng/g, among the lowest reported values for a natural food, with lead concentrations ranging from 70–230 ng/g for raw and processed cocoa.[83] These measurements “are consistent with market-basket surveys that have repeatedly listed lead concentrations in chocolate products among the highest reported for all foods. One source of contamination of the finished products is tentatively attributed to atmospheric emissions of leaded gasoline, which is still being used in Nigeria.”[83] The figures are still comparatively low when compared to 200,000 ng, which is the WHO tolerable daily limit for lead consumption.[84]

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Warnings on lead levels in chocolate

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a California consumer watchdog group filed legal notices last week demanding that many of the big chocolate firms post warnings on packages showing their products contain high levels of lead and cadmium.

As You Sow, an Oakland nonprofit, says single servings of 26 products it tested (three times) had more of the two harmful heavy metals than allowed under the Golden State’s Proposition 65 toxic-chemical warning law.

Overexposure to lead can cause health problems, including lowering children’s IQ. Cadmium, a carcinogen, can cause kidney damage.

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photo source Flickr/Chocolate by Peter Pearson

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