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🍫 OH NO! I heard that chocolate is unsafe….Can I still eat chocolate?

Health & Wellness

➡️ The quick answer: Yes, just don’t eat too much. For most people, that is not more than an ounce a day. If you are at risk, pregnant, or a child (if you even eat dark chocolate), less than an ounce or so a day, no more than a few times a week.

🙋What is the problem with chocolate?

Chocolate contains cocoa solids. Cocoa solids can contain heavy metals. Dark chocolate has more cocoa solids and so more heavy metals. A recent investigation by Consumer Reports (CR) showed that levels of heavy metals in chocolate were similar to levels found in a study done in 2018. The levels were higher than what is considered safe for cadmium and lead.

☠️ How do these heavy metals get into my chocolate?

Cacao pods come from trees. The cacao pods have beans in them, which are what we use to make our yummy chocolate. Cadmium usually gets into the plant (and so the pod and bean) through the soil. This can be because of farming practices that are not good for the soil and cause more heavy metals to be there. Lead gets into the cacao pod differently. Beans are set out to dry and ferment once they are taken out of the pod. They are out in the open and it is thought that dust and other things in the air, maybe from factories nearby, can lead to higher lead levels.

📊 So how much is in the chocolate?

In late 2022, CR put out a statement based on their chocolate testing. It showed that 23 of the 28 chocolates tested had high levels of cadmium and lead in them. If someone ate an ounce of them per day (and really, who only eats an ounce of chocolate), that would be too much. Five of these delicious bars of chocolate were high in both cadmium and lead.

Cadmium can increase the risk of lung cancer, reproductive issues, and lead can cause problems with children’s learning and growth, among other concerns. The levels found in the testing were higher than anticipated when compared to levels set by California’s maximum allowable dose levels (MADLs). For lead, this is 0.5 micrograms and for cadmium this is 4.1 micrograms per day. These are lower than what is used by other groups like the FDA (and so are meant to make sure that people at higher risk are kept safe). You can see pictures of the chocolates and levels here.

🍪 So should I give up dark chocolate?

For chocolate lovers around the world, this can seem concerning. But remember that there are heavy metals in lots of things we eat because they come into contact with air, water, and the ground where heavy metals can get into them. We don’t want to dismiss the concern about dark chocolate, but you can 1) Eat the safer choices that CR suggests, 2) Eat less dark chocolate (less than an ounce per day) and/or 3) Avoid or significantly reduce how much dark chocolate you eat (less than an ounce a few times a week) if you are at risk (such as someone with a chronic health condition), pregnant, or are a child.

🚥 Whether or not you decide to break up with dark chocolate depends on your personal risk factors and minimizing the risk of heavy metals in all the things you consume, dark chocolate included. As with many health related decisions, this one isn’t about no risk, it is about lowering your risk.

Stay safe. Stay well.

Those Nerdy Girls

Additional links:

How CR tested Chocolate

How Does Cadmium and Lead get into chocolate?

Original CR statement

NPR overview of the chocolate concern

NYT Story on avoiding dark chocolate

Link to Original FB Post