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It's easy to get answers about health and nutrition! Just send your question by email to askdrgourmet@drgourmet.com and Dr. Harlan will respond to selected questions of general interest. Answers will be posted in the Ask Dr. Gourmet newsletter (sign up now!) and archived in the Ask Dr. Gourmet section of the website.

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Ask Dr. Gourmet



Should I purchase this chocolate anti-inflammatory product, Xocai?

As a chocoholic, I was intrigued by a product called Xocai. Among its ingredients is unprocessed dark cocoa powder. It is supposed to be a great anti-inflammatory, which I'm always looking for due to pain in my knee and wrist. I thought it would be best to ask your opinion re this "healthy chocolate" before I parted with my hard earned cash. Is unprocessed cocoa better than the cocoa powder found in grocery shelves ?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Chocolate

Certainly there's a lot of evidence that cocoa and chocolate can be good for you. In one study, 28 healthy males between 18 and 20 years old were given 105 grams of milk chocolate per day for 14 days. They showed a decrease in total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Interestingly, they also showed a mild drop in blood pressure. There have also been studies showing that chocolate increases good (HDL) cholesterol.

Chocolate starts as cocoa powder and there's great evidence that consumption of cocoa is healthy. Results suggest that antioxidant substances such as polyphenols derived from cocoa powder may contribute to a reduction in LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), an elevation in HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), and the suppression of oxidized LDL. The oxidized form of LDL cholesterol has been linked to increased risk of heart disease.

All of that said, should you eat chocolate to help prevent disease? Should you spend extra money and consume more calories? I don't think so. If you are going to have something sweet, great quality chocolate is certainly a good choice, but it's not necessary to eat chocolate to get great antioxidants. And it certainly isn't necessary to purchase expensive products like this one.

I found the website of the product you mention, and while their product seems OK for what it is - chocolate - there are a few things that should make you ask questions. The first is their comparison of the difference of cost in getting the same amount of antioxidants from vegetables: $7.41 for 2 1/2 lbs. of mixed veggies vs. 3 of their chocolate squares. While this might be true, you get a lot more from those veggies than just antioxidants. The veggies will fill you up and offer a lot of fiber along with tons of other vitamins and minerals.

The second clue to this product not being everything you might want is the fine print: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

I find this statement humorous because it refers to some of what I believe are the silliest claims I have seen in a long time. I love their assertion that this product "improves sleep," "increases your sense of well-being" and "supports healthy response to inflammation."

Lastly, there's no nutrition information or ingredients so that you can evaluate the product fully. At $1.25 for a single square I would want to be able to compare it against other chocolates on the market. There are a lot of great quality chocolates on the market that are chock full of antioxidants.

As to their claims of helping with inflammation, this is not the sort of anti-inflammatory property that will help you with joint pain (at least not to any meaningful degree).

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet