Faith and beliefs need not not be based on facts or convincing reasons as they are part of the human societal evolution. There are thousands of myths, traditions, practices and folklores inherited over generations which are refusing to fade away even if rationalists challenge them from time to time. Science, with its expanding horizon has been able to debunk many such beliefs with facts and figures though conservatives continue to follow them because of their conviction or convenience. Different people have varying perceptions about the food they eat or shun in their day to day life. It is aptly said that "one man's food is another man's poison" , precisely for the above reason.
Chocolate confections made from cocoa beans are liked universally by one and all, young and old alike. The input material cocoa beans are obtained by fermenting the wet seeds in the coco pods and drying them to ensure long term storage before processing. Modern technology of chocolate making involves roasting the beans, breaking them into nibs, removing the shell, grinding and compounding with one or more of the ingredients like sugar, milk, dry fruits and nuts. Cocoa powder, with varying fat content is made by defatting the cocoa mass in hydraulic presses to remove bulk of the fat commonly referred to as cocoa butter. The powder finds extensive use in food industry as a flavoring material, especially baked goods and beverages. Chocolates as one is familiar with are rich in sugar and fat making them persona non grata with many consumers scared of disorders like CVD, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, obesity, dental decay, etc. Of all the negative attributes, the most ridiculous is the blame that chocolates cause development of acne disease (pimples) which is manifested as skin lesions on the face! Such a myth is wide spread and many women believe that it is true. What are the facts?
Acne appearance is due to walls of pores on the skin sticking to gather and no amount of washing will stop its formation and spread. The skin lesions called pimples are caused by too much formation of selbum, an oily substance which leads to plugged pores. A rare bacteria P.acnes also can, some times,cause acne. Generally food has nothing to do with this skin problem though in some communities acne does not affect people and this has led to the deduction that some foods cause acne for which there is no scientific evidence at all. Stray reports do indicate that essential fatty acids, if present in high amounts in the diet can cause acne but chocolate cannot be considered a decent source of these fatty acids. The belief that chocolates can cause acne might have gained currency because of high fat and sugar present on this confection.
On the contrary the recent development of acne chocolates by the US food industry proves that chocolate is a cure for acne and not a cause. The recommendation is to consume 2-5 acne chocolate bar in a day to clear the acne symptoms within 2-3 weeks. These chocolates are not based on alkalized cocoa mass as in the case of normal chocolates but use cocoa mass containing high levels of antioxidants epicatechins, poly phenols, minerals like Mg, Fe, Cr, Zn and vitamin C. High flavonoid cocoa preparations are known to improve the overall quality of human skin such as structure, texture, blood flow, hydration and improved vessel function allowing blood to flow under the skin. Antioxidant levels in cocoa are twice that in red wine or thrice that in green tea. Its Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) value is 28000 per 100 gm where as the ORAC score for the renowned Acai berry is only 18500, strawberry a mere 1540 and spinach 1260. Addition of milk and other ingredients dilute the ORAC value in chocolate to just 6740.
Xocai, a dark chocolate, being made by a firm in Reno, Nevada and marketed through direct selling is also a health oriented product made from cocoa beans that are blanched, unfermented, sun dried and cold pressed. It contains polycyanidins with high antioxidant properties, almost 8 times as much as that present in normally processed chocolates. its ORAC value is 3882 per a serving of 6 gm bar and contains 1008 mg of total flavonoids in a pack of 18 gm chocolate. The one of its main products containing acai fruit and blue berries also boasts of a billion live cells of a probiotic culture, has an ORAC value of 15300 and a flavonoid content of 2250 mg in a serving of 3 bars! Big hype surrounds its marketing through direct sales and it is not known whether it will ever be introduced in the open market.
The indisputable fact remains that defatted cocoa powder is a store house containing high levels of some of the most unique health boosting nutrients where as the chocolate industry, in the process of making their products popular amongst consumers, could only make their products unhealthy because of the presence of highly saturated fat at unacceptable levels to make them smooth and high sugars such as white sugar and HFCS to satisfy the palate. Though India is not a major cocoa bean producer, efforts must be made to exploit whatever is produced for boosting the health of our population rather than imitating the west in manufacturing unhealthy products. Cocoa industry must pay to the nutrient needs of the body rather than tickling the palates of the consumer!