Chocolate Hype Of Antioxidants Comes With Reality Of Heavy Metals

Regardless of how much money you plan to spend on Valentine’s Day chocolates, you might want to know the cocoa used to make chocolates, e may include potentially toxic levels of lead or cadmium.


Consumer Reports  has published two studies  investigating the presence of heavy metals in chocolates. 


Of the brands they tested, a 2023 study found “a third of chocolate products are high in heavy metals.” 


CR tested 48 different products, including cocoa powder, chocolate chips, chocolate bars, mixes for hot chocolate, brownies, and cakes.


Brands included Hershey’s, Ghirardelli, Nestlé; retailer house brands from Costco, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Whole Foods; and specialty brands Droste and Navitas. 


Dark chocolates have higher percentages of cocoa than milk chocolates, but “…every product we tested had detectable amounts of lead and cadmium,” according to James E. Rogers, PhD, CR’s Director and Acting Head of Product Safety Testing.


Paradoxically, dark chocolate confections that have 70% or higher concentrations of cocoa are considered healthier than treats with lower concentrations because of their powerful antioxidant effect, which contributes to a lower risk of heart disease and enhanced brain function, according to Healthline. But higher cocoa content also means higher levels of heavy metals.


The soil that provides nutrients to the cocoa plants is also the source of unhealthy concentrations of the heavy metals that end up in the cocoa beans. 


Milk chocolates, because they contain less cocoa,  contain lower  amounts of these heavy metals. 


But milk chocolates don’t contain healthier levels of antioxidants found in dark chocolates.


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Dark chocolate bars on a table.

Photo from Alpha Media Portland OR