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Chocolate is more than simply a delicious treat for a lot of us. It's a favorite holiday present, an energy enhancer, a mood enhancer, and a treat after a trying day.
People also favor dark chocolate because of its comparatively low sugar content and its health benefits, as evidenced by studies suggesting that its high antioxidant content may assist heart health and other ailments. Indeed, a recent National Confectioners Association survey found that over half of respondents thought dark chocolate was a "better for you" treat.
However, this purportedly healthy chocolate has a sinister side: dark chocolate and heavy metals. Certain dark chocolate bars have been found to contain lead and cadmium, two heavy metals that have been connected to a number of health issues in both adults and children.
So, what to know about dark chocolate and heavy metals? The chocolate sector has been trying to figure out how to bring those numbers down. Scientists from Consumer Reports have analyzed the levels of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars to determine the potential harm associated with these beloved delicacies. Lead and cadmium were found in every one of them. This potential deadly combo of dark chocolate and heavy metals linger wearily over the entire chocolate industry
After conducting tests on 28 dark chocolate bars from different brands for links between dark chocolate and heavy metals, Consumer Reports revealed that 23 of them had dangerously high levels of lead, cadmium, or both. Previous studies have indicated that eating dark chocolate may lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and cut the risk of heart disease, among other health advantages. Many customers are therefore concerned about the possibility that it also contains hazardous heavy metals.
That's dangerous stuff: prolonged, continuous exposure to even trace levels of heavy metals can cause a number of health issues. According to Tunde Akinleye, the CR food safety researcher who oversaw this testing effort, metals can cause developmental issues, disrupt brain development, and impair IQ; therefore, the risk is highest for expectant mothers and young children. Children therefore are extremely susceptible to this dangerous combo: dark chocolate and heavy metals.
According to CR's tests, the two heavy metals that cause the greatest problems in dark chocolate and heavy metals are lead and cadmium. Studies reveal that there are distinct pathways by which lead and cadmium enter cocoa. It seems that the cocoa plant absorbs cadmium from the soil. However, after harvesting, lead may be transferred to the cocoa beans through dirt and dust while the beans dry outside. The cocoa solids, which combine with cocoa butter to form cacao, contain both of these metals. Because of this, goods high in cocoa solids — like dark chocolate and cocoa powder — generally have higher levels of heavy metals.
What to know about dark chocolate and heavy metals? Continuing to trace this deadly combination of dark chocolate and heavy metals, heavy metals found in popular brands of dark chocolate (% of MADL) were the highest:
1 oz contains 539% lead and 68% cadmium.
1 oz contains 67% lead and 31% cadmium.
1 tablespoon contains 121% lead and 20% cadmium.
1 tablespoon contains 324% lead and 41% cadmium.
3 tablespoons contain 345% lead and 13% cadmium.
1 box contains 108% lead and 37% cadmium.
One package contains 218% lead and 77% cadmium.
Products should include the least amount of heavy metals feasible because long-term exposure to any amount of heavy metals might be detrimental. Manufacturers can lower the amount of heavy metals in their products by getting chocolate from regions with low soil cadmium levels and by improving the methods for harvesting, processing, and cleaning cocoa.
However, CR's findings suggest that certain businesses might be more successful than others in preventing metals from entering their products. This holds true for both cocoa powder and dark chocolate. A CR chemist named Eric Boring, PhD, who led the chocolate testing, stated that although it's not always the case; goods with higher cocoa contents typically have higher metal levels. Manufacturers can minimize the amount of heavy metals in their products because there was sufficient diversity in lead levels within each food category to demonstrate that factors other than cocoa content affect lead levels.
For instance, Boring asks why Hershey's can't produce cocoa powder with less lead if Navitas Organic Cacao can have a lower lead content as well.
The director of food policy at CR, Brian Ronholm, mentioned that a Hershey executive had said earlier in 2022 that the business was still looking for ways to eliminate more metals through more cleaning and different sourcing. In closing, Brian expressed his desire for them to keep their word.
According to Ronholm, although it would seem impossible to lower contamination because metals are naturally present in soil, there are actions chocolate manufacturers can take to make their goods safer. To guarantee that the finished product has lower levels, these include sourcing from regions with lower levels and combining beans from various areas. Additionally, he said, producers might test lots of cocoa to pinpoint trouble areas and reject especially tainted lots.
It might be difficult to determine how much dark chocolate is dangerous to consume in one sitting. This is due to the fact that individual risk levels range, heavy metal levels can fluctuate, and chocolate is merely one possible source of heavy metal exposure. However, scientists believe you may minimize the potential damages and still enjoy dark chocolate by being aware of the risks. So therefore, heavy metals found in popular brands of dark chocolate pose a very serious health risk to all those unware of this incredible fallacy.
Five chocolates were tested by CR, and the results showed that two Ghirardelli chocolates and one each from Mast, Taza, and Valrhona had relatively low levels of lead and cadmium.
A daily consumption of just one ounce from 23 out of the 28 chocolate bars tested would exceed the limit dose for at least one heavy metal in an adult. Lead and cadmium levels are above the upper limit in five bars.
Milk chocolate typically has lower levels of heavy metals because it contains fewer cacaos than dark chocolate.