Eating Chocolate May be More Important to Your Health Than Penicillin

Epicatechin, a compound found in unrefined cocoa, could have health benefits that rival penicillin and anesthesia in terms of importance to public health.


Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying the effects of routine cocoa drinking on the Kuna people of Panama. The Kuna, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, have a less than 10 percent risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes.

Hollenberg believes that epicatechin should be considered a vitamin, and other nutrition experts believe that epicatechin is so important that it could even warrant a rethinking of how vitamins are defined.

Epicatechin is removed from commercial cocoas because it tends to have a bitter taste. It is also found in teas, wine, chocolate and some fruits and vegetables.



Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Consuming chocolate could be far more important than anyone, including me, ever imagined. I remember very clearly reviewing the first studies that came out nearly 10 years ago. I was absolutely convinced that since they were funded by Mars candy there was massive conflict of interest and very little truth to the science.

But time has certainly disproved that. Now, there still isn't any benefit to eating the vast majority of candy that is passed off as chocolate. The major benefits are restricted to the raw and very bitter cacao beans (from which cocoa is processed) and the more they are processed and sweetened the more the benefits are decreased.

Does epicatechin-rich cocoa really reduce the risk of the four most deadly diseases -- cancer, heart failure, diabetes and stroke -- to less than 10 percent? It's possible. In fact, some experts believe these diseases may eventually be viewed as the result of an epicatechin deficiency.

That said, consuming any run-of-the-mill chocolate won't do. Scientists agree patients derive the most benefits from minimally-processed chocolate. Some quick tips to remember when consuming chocolate:

  • Eat it only if you're healthy.
  • Confine your choices to dark chocolate.
  • Consume it only in moderation.

On Vital Votes, biochemist Russ Bianchi from Soquel, California says:

"If one looks at most of the founders of roasting and grinding cocoa bean companies (industrial chocolate manufacturers), they all lived to ripe old ages (also, the successful ones got better food and health care being wealthy and presumably having less stress in their lives). 

"Do I think there is a reasonable, but still anecdotal, correlation between consuming moderate amounts of minimally processed dark cocoa powder or chocolate, that contain low levels of sugar, and any health benefit?

"Yes, however the key 'take home' message is MODERATION!!!  Dark chocolate, in combination with a balanced unprocessed nutritional intake of 1,500 calories per day or less, with regular low impact exercise, and nutritional typing and EFT, as the good Dr. Mercola also suggests, can benefit your health and happiness."

While reader Tom from Grandview, Ohio adds:

"That does it ? No more penicillin-chip cookies for me!"

Other responses to this article can be viewed at Vital Votes, and you can add your own thoughts or vote on comments by first registering at Vital Votes.



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