Monday, 10 December 2012

Is Cacao Toxic?

The mild toxin in Cacao is theobromine.

Cocoa powder is ground cacao beans with the fat extracted. Cocoa powder contains roughly 2000mg of theobromine per 100g.[1] Cocoa butter contains very little, if any, theobromine.[2] I can't see any evidence suggesting cooking has any effect on the theobromine content of cocoa. So raw and cooked probably have the same levels.

Theobromine is a big problem in dogs. It's hard to find much information on the toxic dose of theobromine for humans. That should tell you something. However, it is said, by some, to be 3 times that of dogs.[3] The toxic dose for a dog is around 130mg per kilogram of body weight.[4] That makes the toxic dose for humans to be about 27, 300mg (average male)or 390mg per kg of body weight. That means you would have to eat over 1kg of cocoa powder in a day. That's like a whole package of the stuff.[5]

I wouldn't say cacao, or cocoa, was a miracle food, like some claim, but it does seem to have some health benefits. It's quite mineral dense for one. One tablespoon of cocoa powder gives you 7% of your magnesium requirements, 9% of your iron requirements (for males), and 23% of your copper requirements.[6] Vitamin wise it doesn't impress.

Cocoa is also very antioxidant dense, having an ORAC score of 3005 per tablespoon.[7] It may also reduce LDL cholesterol, and has been shown to reduce blood pressure.[8][9]

Cocoa butter can raise LDL, but not as much as other saturated fat sources. This is likely because cocoa is high in the saturated fatty acid stearic acid, and low in myristic and lauric acid.[10]


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