Term Paper: Chocolate: Behind Its Bad Rap

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[. . .] Public health officials often suggest that individuals over the age of 40 take a baby aspirin a day to reduce their risk for stroke and heart attacks. In the United States, it is estimated that millions of individuals take aspirin on a daily basis for its cardio-protective effects.

Scientists have also found that the flavonoids in chocolate may augment the natural oxidant defense systems in the body, which may reduce the risk for certain diseases.

Still, nutrition experts caution that chocolate, which is rich in sugar and fats, should not be viewed as a substitute for fruit and vegetables. Similarly, flavonoid-rich foods should not be viewed as a substitute for low-dose aspirin. This study will examine both the benefits and risks of chocolate in the diet.

Research Questions

How has chocolate gotten a bad rap for being an unhealthy food?

What proof do we have that is a healthy food?

Are the studies on chocolate biased or incomplete?

What are the positive and negative ingredients of chocolate?

How can chocolate be beneficial to a balanced diet?

In what ways can chocolate be harmful to the body?

How has chocolate been used and abused throughout history?

What do nutritionists say about chocolate?

How is chocolate good for the heart?

How is chocolate good for the brain?

What role do the manufacturers of chocolate and chocolate products play in today's research?

Is chocolate a health food?

What kind of research needs to be done in the future?

Are men and women equally attracted to chocolate?

Hypotheses

The purpose of this study to show that chocolate does not deserve the bad rap that it has gotten as an unhealthy food. With a well-balanced diet, eating moderate amounts of chocolate can be beneficial. Still, this study is aimed at providing a complete picture of the studies that have been conducted on chocolate. It is important to know both sides of the story.

While many myths regarding chocolate have been proven wrong, there are still negative effects of eating chocolate. Chocolate is rich in calories and saturated fat, which can lead to disease and obesity. Also, chocolate can be bad for some people.

Chocolate, as well as red wines and certain cheeses, contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a substance that can dilate blood vessels in the brain. People with sensitivity to PEA might find that eating chocolate triggers headaches, even migraines. (Mustad, 2001)

This study will also examine which types of chocolate are most beneficial and which are lacking in nutritional value. It is my goal to prove that chocolate can be beneficial to the diets of many people, provided that they eat it in moderation and in combination with a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Significance of the Study

While initial research on the benefits of chocolate is encouraging, it is obvious that large-scale, controlled human studies are missing and more research is needed.

Chocolate was long believed to be a source of saturated fats, a type of fat that can have negative effects on overall health. More recently however, a number of studies have identified the fat in chocolate as being stearic acid, a type of fat that the body converts through a series of biochemical changes, into oleic acid, which does not have the same deleterious effects.

The problem lies with the type of chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content is a potential source of antioxidants, but what makes up the remaining 30%?

Also, it appears that many studies that have been performed have been minimal and their results have been somewhat misleading. It is important to examine the facts and the result of the research to come to a conclusion about whether chocolate is good, bad or both.

Definition of Terms

All definitions taken from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Acne- an inflammatory disease of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles of the skin that is marked by the eruption of pimples or pustules, especially on the face.

Anandamide- a messenger molecule that plays a role in pain, depression, appetite, memory, and fertility.

Antioxidants- a substance, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta carotene, thought to protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation.

Calories- a unit of energy-producing potential equal to this amount of heat that is contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body.

Catechins- a crystalline substance, C15H14O6, derived from catechu and used in tanning and dyeing.

Chocoholic- a person who craves chocolate.

Cholesterol- a white crystalline substance, C27H45OH, found in animal tissues and various foods, that is normally synthesized by the liver and is important as a constituent of cell membranes and a precursor to steroid hormones. Its level in the bloodstream can influence the pathogenesis of certain conditions, such as the development of atherosclerotic plaque and coronary artery disease.

Conching- a flavor developing process that kneads the chocolate.

Depression- a psychiatric disorder characterized by an inability to concentrate, insomnia, loss of appetite, anhedonia, feelings of extreme sadness, guilt, helplessness and hopelessness, and thoughts of death.

Fats- macronutrients which are essential to life and provide a useful source of energy while insulating the body and its organs against the cold. They also build and maintain body tissue while assisting in the transport of fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body.

Flavanoids- a grouping of micro-nutrients are 12 classes that individually total over 20,000. One plant or herb may contain hundreds of flavonoids. The more well researched flavonoid classes are flavones, flavonols, isoflavones, quercetin, anthocyanidins, and catechins. Flavonoids therefore make up the largest group of anti-oxidants.

Hyperactive- highly or excessively active.

Magnesium- a light, silvery-white, moderately hard metallic element that in ribbon or powder form burns with a brilliant white flame. It is used in structural alloys, pyrotechnics, flash photography, and incendiary bombs.

Nutrient- any substance that provides essential nourishment for the maintenance of life.

Obesity- the condition of being obese; increased body weight caused by excessive accumulation of fat.

Oleic Acid- an oily liquid, C17H33COOH, occurring in animal and vegetable oils and used in making soap.

Palmitic Acid- a fatty acid, C15H31COOH, occurring in many natural oils and fats and used in making soaps.

Phenylethlamine- a chemical that speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells.

Phosphate- a molecule containing a phosphorus atom. Phosphate is used by life to carry energy from one molecule to another in ATP. It is also part of RNA and DNA.

Phytochemicals- non-nutrient plant chemicals that contain protective, disease-preventing compounds.

Plyphenol- a substance made when plants go through photosynthesis. It's contained in most plants. In red grapes, tannin and risberitol are the two main types, and in green tea, it's katekin, which is well-known.

Potassium- a soft, silver-white, highly or explosively reactive metallic element that occurs in nature only in compounds. It is obtained by electrolysis of its common hydroxide and found in, or converted to, a wide variety of salts used especially in fertilizers and soaps.

Protein-Protein is a macronutrient, composed of amino acids, that promotes the growth and repair of body tissue such as skin, muscle and hair. The daily-recommended intake of protein, depending upon age and gender, can range between 40 grams and 105 grams. Protein is most often found in meat and animal products such as milk and eggs, but can also be found in plant foods like nuts and beans.

Saturated Fat- a fat, most often of animal origin, that is solid at room temperature and whose fatty acid chains cannot incorporate additional hydrogen atoms. An excess of these fats in the diet is thought to raise the cholesterol level in the bloodstream.

Stearic Acid- a colorless, odorless, waxlike fatty acid, Chapter 3(CH2)16COOH, occurring in natural animal and vegetable fats and used in making soaps, candles, lubricants, and other products.

Sugars- carbohydrates, which are macronutrients that serve as the main source of energy for the body. Most carbohydrates consist of a combination of one or more of three single-molecule sugars: glucose, fructose and galactose. Starch consists of long chains of glucose molecules linked together. Table sugar, or sucrose, consists of two sugar molecules (one glucose and one fructose) linked together.

Theobromine- a bitter, colorless alkaloid, C7H8N4O2, derived from the cacao bean, found in chocolate products and used in medicine as a diuretic, vasodilator, and myocardial stimulant.

Zinc- a bluish-white, lustrous metallic element that is brittle at room temperature but malleable with heating. It is used to form a wide variety of alloys including brass, bronze, various solders, and nickel silver, in galvanizing iron and other metals, for electric fuses, anodes, and meter cases, and in roofing, gutters, and various household objects.

Chocolate: Behind Its Bad Rap

Chapter Two - Review of Related Literature and Research

Review of Related Literature and Research

Despite the fact that chocolate has gotten a bad rap over the years, many studies show that, in many ways, it is a healthy food. Particularly over the past decade, scientists, professors, nutritionists and researchers have completed projects that show that chocolate can be good for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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