Dark chocolate has long been viewed as a guilty pleasure, but is it actually bad for you? Find out what we know about the health benefits (or risks) of indulging in this tasty treat.
A recent investigation by Consumer Reports has found that all 28 dark chocolate bars they tested contained lead and cadmium, two heavy metals that can cause negative health impacts over time. These metals can accumulate in the body and, if consumed in excess, can lead to toxicity. For 23 of the bars tested, consuming just one ounce per day could potentially lead to exposure levels that exceed safe limits for these metals, especially for vulnerable populations such as children and pregnant women. In addition, five of the bars tested had levels of both metals that exceeded these safe limits.
After publishing their findings, Consumer Reports reached out to the four companies that manufactured the five bars with unsafe levels of heavy metals - Hershey’s, Mondelez International, Trader Joe’s, and Theo Chocolate - and asked them to commit to removing heavy metals from their products. However, only Trader Joe’s responded, stating that it has been working on the issue for years and considers the health and safety of its customers its top priority.
The company also disputed the use of California’s maximum allowable dose levels (MADL) in the analysis, arguing that these levels are meant to create an ample margin of safety. Consumer Reports disagrees, arguing that consuming a food that exceeds the MADL limit consistently can compromise the safety margin and that the MADLs are the most health-protective limits. Only five of the 28 bars tested were below the MADL threshold for both metals.
Consumer Reports continues to urge manufacturers to do more to reduce the levels of heavy metals in chocolate. In the meantime, consumers can help protect themselves by choosing chocolates with lower levels of heavy metals and by consuming chocolate as a treat rather than on a daily basis.
Health Risks: Lead and cadmium are toxic metals that can cause various negative health effects. For instance, lead can harm the nervous system, leading to developmental and cognitive problems and affect the reproductive and cardiovascular systems. Cadmium can cause kidney damage, as well as bone and lung diseases. While these effects may not be immediately apparent, prolonged exposure can lead to chronic health conditions, making it important to limit exposure to these metals.
The presence of these metals in chocolate is concerning, especially as chocolate is a popular food item. Dark chocolate is often touted for its health benefits, such as being high in antioxidants and other compounds that are thought to improve cardiovascular health. However, heavy metals in the product could offset these potential benefits.
In conclusion, the Consumer Reports investigation highlights the need for manufacturers to take action to reduce the levels of heavy metals in chocolate. While one company has committed to addressing the issue, more must be done to ensure that all chocolate products are safe for consumption. In the meantime, consumers should limit their exposure by choosing chocolates with lower levels of heavy metals and consuming chocolate as a treat rather than on a daily basis.