Puzzled by the seeming contradiction that a food high in saturated fat could reduce the risks of heart disease, the researchers seized on the only explanation that could co-exist with their preconceptions about chocolate: the antioxidents and bioflavanoids in chocolate must be powerful enough to over-ride the "bad" things in it.
To his credit, Dr. Franco warned that there have not been any clinical trials to see if the association is real or to determine how much and what kind of chocolate gives the best results. He doesn't recommend that anyone should eat chocolate for its health benefits, and if you do eat it, he says, you should eat it only in moderation because of its fat, calorie, and sugar content. (Saw that coming, didn't you?) He says, "We still need to clarify the quantity that permits chocolate to prevent heart disease….we don't think it's going to be a high quantity."
It doesn't occur to him that the benefits of chocolate might be because of the fats and not in spite of them, especially when tested in a population eating a diet in which most of the natural, traditional fats have been replaced with damaged fats, trans fats, and pro-inflammatory oils made from soy and grains. Dr. Franco should listen to his own advice and apply the same standard of proof to the studies frequently cited to show that saturated fats, like those in cocoa butter, are bad for you in the first place.
Plain, unsweetened chocolate is 87% fat, most of it saturated. But the largest percentage of the saturated fat is stearic acid, which is quickly converted into monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, when ingested. Stearic acid is the most common saturated fat and the predominate fat in red meat (the name is derived from the Greek word for "tallow," the fat found in red meat). Even the USDA's new guidelines exempt stearic acid from the list of saturated fats that should be avoided. In both epidemiological and clinical trials, stearic acid has been associated with lowered LDL cholesterol. (See footnote #1.)
I’d also point out the fallacy of his belief that chocolate necessarily contains sugar (one taste of a ChocoPerfection bar would be the best argument to refute that), although it is refreshing that he recognizes that sugar is not innocent. I'm sure the results would have been much more dramatic if sugar-free chocolate had been in the running.
Yes, chocolate is rich in antioxidants, with an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity) value of 55,650 for cocoa powder compared to 9,621 for wild blueberries or 3,290 for raw gogi berries. It is also a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, and zinc and an excellent source of copper and manganese. It is naturally low in sugar and carbohydrates and has a glycemic load of zero. If more of the people in the studies examined by Dr. Franco ate chocolate, minus the sugar, several times a day, like I do, I'm sure the results would have been much more conclusive that chocolate is good and good for you.
1. Hunter, J. Edward; Zhang, Jun; Kris-Etherton, Penny M. (January 2010). "Cardiovascular disease risk of dietary stearic acid compared with trans, other saturated, and unsaturated fatty acids: a systematic review". Am. J. Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 91 (1): 46–63.
(C) 2011, Judy Barnes Baker; Carb Wars; Sugar is the New Fat