Health Aspects of Cocoa

MKD & Associates

Thesis: The development and distribution of cocoa has had a positive effect on today's society because of it's active role in daily health.

I. History of Cocoa
A. Kakahutal Mayan and Aztec Culture
B. Introduction to Europe
C. Cocoa Press
II. Mental and Physical Health
A. Migraines
B. Cholesterol
1. Stearic Acid
2. Oleic Acid
3. Flavonoids
C. Premenstrual Syndrome
D. Kidney Stones
E. Chemical Craving Theories
1. Theobromine
2. Phenylithylamine
3. Endorphins

Chocolate, one America's top industry's. We produce more chocolate and chocolate products than any other country, over 2.9 billion pounds a year. There has been much controversy about the lack of nutritional value of in it's contents, yet new studies have shown that cocoa, used to make chocolate, can be good for you. The development and distribution of cocoa has had a positive effect on today's society because of it's active role in daily health.

Cocoa was last dated back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures in 1502. On Columbus' last voyage he brought a few cocoa beans from the new world to Spain but they were introduced as nothing more than seeds and so they were forgotten. Until 1519 when the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez landed during his expedition to Mexico he came upon the people known as the Aztecs. While there he dined with many of the rich and powerful people of this society. He reported that these people drink amazing amounts of something they called choclatl (Chocolate! 12). Chocolatl a beverage made from corn meal, chili peppers, vanilla, and kakahutal or cocoa as it's known today. Cortez figured the if an Aztec king liked chocolatl, a Spanish king would too. So he brought some beans to Europe as one of the fabulous treasures from America.

The Spanish royalty called their new drink chocolate. They sweetened it with sugar or honey and flavored it with cinnamon. But since the Spanish couldn't get enough beans for themselves, they didn't want to share them with anyone else. They kept the secret so well that, for many years, very few people in Europe knew about chocolate. When the secret finally leaked out, only rich people could afford the luxury. But soon more and more beans were being grown, and better ways of turning them into chocolate were discovered. Chocolate became so popular that cocoa pubs, houses where you can go eat and drink all the chocolate you wished, popped up across the English countryside. Cocoa was the first great stimulant to be used by the European society, having achieved widespread popularity before coffee and tea (Friedman 75).

In 1828, the Dutch inventor Conrad van Hbuten perfected the cocoa press, which separated the beans into cocoa butter and cocoa powder, making possible the first bar of solid chocolate. With the addition of sugar, and later milk, chocolate became the food that stole the whole world's heart (Friedman 75).

Because chocolate is so high in fat, roughly half its' content, many theories about its' effects have evolved. One of them is that chocolate causes migraines and headaches, which just happens to be false. Dr. Dawn A. Marcus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center conducted a study of 63 women who suffer from migraines. Participants ate either chocolate or carob, which tastes like chocolate. The two groups suffered the same number of migraines within the next 12 hours. Although the study was conducted with women the findings are applicable to men. "Most of the triggers and therapies for headaches in men and women are the same, so one would predict similar results with the male population," Marcus says (Chocolate's Not a Culprit 66). Women report dietary triggers of headaches more frequently than men, and more women are beginning to suffer from migraines.

High cholesterol levels have also been blamed on chocolate. For many years it has been seen as a arterychoking low-density lipoprotein. Nutritionists have now observed that some forms of saturated fats have no effect on cholesterol. One third of the fat in chocolate is a cholesterol-friendly saturated fat called stearic acid, while another third is a healthy unsaturated fat called oleic acid. In addition new research from wine chemists at the University of California at Davis reveals that cocoa contains the same antioxidants, called flavonoids, that red wine contains. These flavonoids have been proven to aid in the fight against heart attacks by retarding the oxidation of lipoproteins which would normally break down into foam cells that clog blood vessels.

It has also been reported that many women