There’s nothing better than a bar of dark chocolate to satisfy those untimely cravings. It’s accessible, low-effort, and doesn’t take up a lot of space. The Mayas and Aztecs consumed cacao to revitalize themselves. Modern sportspersons consume it in the middle of a draining match. Modern workplaces always keep a good stock of dark chocolates for the purpose of productivity. Candy companies sell these to us as a perfect substitute for healthy food, something that certified dieticians affirm as well. For those of us who enjoy the blandness of dark chocolate, we consume it instinctively, anywhere and anytime.
However, there’s a dark side to dark chocolate, whose excessive consumption is linked with several terminal health problems, says new research from Consumer Reports, published in December last year.
While the research doesn’t debunk several health benefits like relieving stress, lowering the risk of blood pressure, or decreasing cholesterol, it states the presence of lead and cadmium—two heavy metals that are found in the earth’s crust and whose frequent consumption can detrimentally affect our vital organs.
Consumer Reports sampled 28 popular brands of dark chocolate and found the presence of lead and cadmium in all of them. The report reaffirms the earlier findings of the Food and Drug Administration, which found dark chocolate to have 7.6 micrograms of cadmium— only cocoa powder and sunflower seeds are known to have a higher concentration of cadmium.
“If you’re a regular consumer of these dark chocolates, I would be concerned,” says Melissa Melough, who teaches nutrition at the University of Delaware. “
As per Tunde Akinleye, the Consumer Reports’ food safety researcher, the presence of cadmium and lead is associated with developmental problems in a young child, and might also lead to low IQ. The abnormal consumption of lead, meanwhile, is associated with hypertension, kidney damage, and immunity issues.
“While most people don’t eat chocolate every day, 15 percent do, according to the market research firm Mintel. Even if you aren’t a frequent consumer of chocolate, lead, and cadmium can still be a concern,” reads the findings published on Consumerreports.org. However, it’s now impossible to avoid cadmium and lead, as these elements are now quite ubiquitous, found even in food like carrots and spinach.
As per European Safety Standards, a normal person shouldn’t consume over 21 micrograms of cadmium on daily basis. The threshold amount for lead is significantly lower than cadmium, as even a minuscule presence of this element can cause life-threatening health problems.