Chocolate: What is the Optimal Dose? Perfect Health Diet, Perfect Health Diet

diet hot chocolate

Diet hot chocolate

Chocolate: What is the Optimal Dose?

I have a question about having dark chocolate daily. Does it need to be every day or what is the mininum grams per day. I have been having around 35g a day of 70% but I wondered if less would be ok or not having it at all.

This is a great time for this question, since Halloween candy will be running out soon, and those on tight budgets may be tempted to skimp on their chocolate. Should they?

Chocolate Is Not Considered Essential … Yet

Chocolate has not yet been recognized by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies as an essential nutrient. We haven’t either: Our food plate lists it among “pleasure foods,” which are healthful but optional.

However, we are becoming ever-more chocolate friendly. In the new edition of our book, we list chocolate among our “supplemental foods” which we recommend consuming regularly. But our suggested dose is “as desired.” Perhaps we should narrow that down a little.

Chocolate Against Cardiovascular Disease

We’ve previously warned of the danger of chocolate deficiency, based on a systematic review that found: “The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke.” [1]

Here’s a visual summary of their findings:

The review authors report that every study accounted for chocolate intake in a different way, so they could only compare the groups with highest and lowest chocolate consumption in each study, not specific doses of chocolate.

Chocolate Against Diabetes

Bret was concerned about the sugar in chocolate, but if this is a problem, it’s outweighed by the benefits of chocolate. A Japanese study found that the rate of diabetes was reduced by 30% in those who consume the most chocolate. [2]

Chocolate Against Dementia and In Support of Cognitive Function

Several studies [3, 4] have found that chocolate consumption reduces risk of dementia and enhances performance on tests of cognitive function.

One of them found that cognitive function was optimized with a relatively low dose of chocolate – ten grams per day:

The associations between intake of these foodstuffs and cognition were dose dependent, with maximum effect at intakes of approximately 10 g/d for chocolate and approximately 75-100 mL/d for wine, but approximately linear for tea. [3]

The other found that cognition improved with intake of cocoa flavanols up to quite high doses – elderly given 1 g/day cocoa flavanols performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those given lower doses. [4]

Unfortunately I don’t know what fraction of chocolate is made of flavanols. I’m guessing it’s not more than a few percent, in which case this research suggests the optimal dose of chocolate may be 50 g/day or more.

Chocolate in Support of Circadian Rhythms

Most authors attribute the benefits of chocolate to their flavanols, which are thought to improve endothelial function and increase blood flow to the brain, among other effects.

However, there are other active compounds in chocolate, include peptides that interact with the opioid receptor. The opioid receptor has a role in circadian rhythms, which is one reason low-dose naltrexone (which blocks opioid function at night) works. It’s possible that eating chocolate during the day may support circadian rhythms via opioid receptor stimulation, especially if the peptides can reach the systemic circulation.

Indirect evidence that this may be beneficial comes from a Russian study in which exorphins (opioid receptor ligands) were injected into rats:

The chronic intraperitoneal administration of the peptide at the same dose of 5 mg/kg significantly increased exploratory activity, decreased anxiety, and improved learning. [5]

I don’t know how much chocolate would have to be eaten to achieve a similar exorphin dose in humans, but I imagine it’s large.

Chocolate in Support of Nobel Prizes

So how shall we resolve the issue of optimal chocolate dose? For me, the decisive evidence comes from a recent study by Franz Messerli published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Based on chocolate’s support for cognitive function, he decided to see if chocolate consumption was related to another measure of cognition – Nobel Prize awards per capita. He counted Nobel Prizes and compared them to the recipient’s country’s chocolate consumption. These were his findings [6]:

There is clearly a strong correlation. The correlation coefficient is .79; p

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