Term Paper: Cocoa the Cacao Tree (Theobroma

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[. . .] Chocolate, as a food, is ingested primarily as a cocoa beverage or as chocolate used in a variety of confections and candies, desserts, snacks, and treats, such as chocolate bars, mixed with other candies, or coatings for ice cream bars -- among other uses. Chocolate syrup and toppings, mousses and puddings, and baked goods contain chocolate and cocoa butter but also may contain butterfat or other saturated fat (tropical vegetable oils), so it is therefore important to read the labels to acquire a true list of the ingredients.

The United States leads the world in import and production of chocolate candy. The population consuming, on average, 10 lb of products per person, approximately one-third of which are chocolate. The highest percentage of consumption occurs in 16- to 19-year-olds and women between 40 and 49 years. 12- to 19-year-old males and 30- to 39-year-old women consume the highest amount in grams per day of chocolate candy. Most of this chocolate is not eaten as solid chocolate but as "panned, enrobed, molded" chocolate. For example, candies and coatings. The Swiss outdo Americans by eating an average of 22 lb of products per year per person. The Swiss also, however, invented milk chocolate.


However, chocolate intake only accounts for about 1% of the total fat intake in the United States according to data from the 1987-1998 National Food Consumption Survey. To put this in perspective, the remaining fat intake can be broken down as such: 30% of dietary fat from meats, 22% from grains (in crackers, cookies, cakes, and pies) and 20% from milk and dairy products. The fat in chocolate, cocoa butter, is high in saturated fat (60%), half of which is stearic acid.[3] Cocoa butter has more stearate than any other common fat or oil. Cocoa butter is a vegetable fat, which means that it does not contain cholesterol. Milk chocolate, which has added milk fat is therefore a source of cholesterol. The saturated fat content of common fats and oils shows that palm kernel and coconut oils are the highest in saturated fat, while cocoa butter is ranked third. If the content of the long chain of saturated fatty acids of 12 to 16 carbon chain length are ranked, cocoa butter moves to sixth place, below palm oil, butter oil, and beef tallow, resembling chicken fat. Chocolate, especially versions highest in fat, is a high-calorie food. To illustrate this, a 3-lb box of chocolates yields 6900 kcal.


In controlled feeding trials in humans, cocoa butter results in significantly lower levels of serum total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol compared with butter or beef fat, but it is not as hypolipidemic as olive oil. Stearic acid is termed a "neutral" fatty acid in terms of any effects on raising serum cholesterol or LDL cholesterol.[4] This lack of effect is due, in part, to its poorer digestibility and lesser absorption in comparison to other long chain fatty acids. Stearate may raise the levels of serum triglycerides and decrease levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which will result in no net change in the ratio of LDL:HDL cholesterol. There is also data which indicates that stearic acid increases the levels of Lp (a), a highly atherogenic variant of LDL, and increases the levels of fibrinogen, perhaps negatively affecting coagulation. Currently, it is not clear whether stearic acid is prothrombogenic, mainly because data in animal models may not be applicable to humans and no intervention trials have been undertaken.

Recently, as does red wine and other flavonoid-containing foods, cocoa has been shown to have antioxidant properties with regard to LDL, similar to vitamin E[5,6] One cup of hot chocolate containing two tablespoons of cocoa, and a 1.5-oz chunk of milk chocolate (41g) have 146 mg and 105 mg total phenol respectively, compared with 210 mg in 140 ml red wine. The extracted cocoa phenols inhibited LDL oxidation by 75%; the authors conclude "the pleasant pairing of red wine and dark chocolate could have synergistic advantages beyond their complementary tastes."[5] Before recommending chocolate to heart disease patients, however, these in vitro effects need be demonstrated in vivo, and heart disease rates should be examined in relation to chocolate/cocoa intake. In a follow-up study, such as the red wine study, oxidation of LDL with cocoa prolonged the oxidation lag time of LDL in a concentration-dependent manner.[6] Volunteers consumed 35 g dilipidated cocoa, and LDL oxidation was measured in blood samples taken before and 3 hours after the cocoa consumption. It was found that LDL oxidation lag time was prolonged significantly (p < 0.005) at 2 hours. The results reiterate the idea of allowing moderate chocolate consumption for patients at risk of atherosclerosis or with coronary heart disease.


The bottom line on chocolate as a part of your diet suggests that two to three chocolate bars per week, 1.5 oz each, or a daily cup of cocoa with added skim milk, is acceptable. Dark chocolate, which contains less fat, is preferable to the sweeter varieties, and cocoa is better in terms of calories and fat because it contains 10% to 22% fat compared with 58% in chocolate. Equivalent snacks in terms of calories are: 1 oz pretzels and a 12-oz soft drink, or 1 bag of potato chips and the 12-oz soft drink. The consumer can choose from among these, but take into consideration than chocolate serves as an occasional snack for diabetics and can as Step 1 of a cholesterol-lowering diet.

Chocolate has a unique "mouth feel" and melt-away behavior, a creamy texture, and a puzzling food flavor and aroma. The aroma coming from some 30 to 50 chemical compounds. Chocolate, quite literally, melts in your mouth (not in your hand), with cocoa butter liquefying abruptly at just above usual room temperature and completing the phase transition at body temperature.


Chocolate has been associated with a large variety of adverse effects on health and bodily functions and diseases, from acne to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For most of these medical problems, the association is weak and for even more the connection is non-existant. Many have been ruled out by properly designed investigation. Some remain as relatively minor problems for the population, although potentially serious for the affected individual. Chocolate has been used as a medicinal remedy over the years. It has also been in a treatise which recommended chocolate for many diseases, even going so far as to cite it as a cure for Cardinal Richelieu's ills.

Table 1. Chocolate and diseases:

Medical maligning?

Acne Diabetes mellitus

Affective disorders Heartburn

Allergy Immune function

Blood clotting Infection

Blood lipids and heart disease Kidney stones

Cancer Migraine headaches

Dental caries and plaque Premenstrual syndrome

This list represents disorders for which references have been published in recent years, and most of which have been found to be without fact or base.

Chocolate Craving

Chocolate craving is the most common craving in North America and affects 40% of women (more at the time of menstruation) and 15% of men. Craving is an aroma related element. It is independent of sweetness, texture, and calories. It relates to the content of phenylethylamine, an amphetamine-like substance that selectively increases tryptophan uptake in the brain.[70] The result is an increase in brain levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine, a dopamine precursor. Dopamine has been theorized as an stimuli of "pleasure" feelings. Phenylethylamine has also has been implicated in the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, and proposed as the mediator of the "falling in love" emotion, perhaps equivalent to orgasm (assuming these responses are biochemical in origin). Montezuma, it is said, drank a golden goblet of cacao beverage before entering his harem where he encountered a new partner every night.

Recently, investigators extracted Nacylethanolamines (arachidonyl, linoleoyl, and oleoyl) from cocoa powder.[8] Anandamide (the arachidonyl amine) is a brain lipid that binds to cannabinoid receptors with high affinity and mimics the psychoactive effects of plant-derived cannabinoid drugs. This may be an endogenous cannabinoid neurotransmitter or neuromodulator. These compounds are not found in white chocolate that contains only cocoa butter and milk, nor in brewed espresso coffee. The oleoyl and linoleoyl derivatives inhibit the breakdown of anandamide, therefore mimicking cannabinoids. Cannabinoid drugs heighten sensitivity and produce a so-called "euphoria." These compounds may intensify the sensory properties of chocolate essential to craving, or interact with the methylxanthines in chocolate to produce transient feelings of well-being. Theobromine has caffeine-like properties, but the caffeine content of chocolate is extremely low (6 mg/oz), equivalent to that in a cup of decaffeinated coffee. Methylxanthines also interact with the adenosine receptors. Theobromine dawns many hats, acting as a myocardial stimulant, a diuretic, a smooth muscle relaxant, and a dilator of coronary arteries. Theobromine content is highest in baking chocolate and cocoa and lower in sweet and milk chocolate and chocolate syrup.

Women with eating disorders may fall under the classification of "chocolate addicts." Studies of these self-described addicts have shown no improvement in depression,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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