Chapter One — Introduction to the Problem
Introduction to the Problem
In today's society, chocolate is everywhere. It seems that people have developed a love-hate relationship with chocolate. According to the US Department of Commerce, the average American ate 11.7 pounds of chocolate in the year 2000. American adults ranked chocolate as the most-craved food and as their favorite flavor by a three-to-one margin. Throughout the world exists a society of chocolate lovers. While Americans consume an average of nearly 12 pounds of chocolate per year, we are not the biggest fans. The British eat 16 pounds each and the Swiss, inventors of milk chocolate, consume the most yearly at 22 pounds per person. However, while people love it, they can't help feeling a pang of guilt when eating it because over the years, chocolate has gotten a "bad rap" as being an unhealthy food. However, recent research is slowly unraveling the hidden truth about chocolate that it might actually be beneficial to a balanced diet. Despite its name, a typical "milk" chocolate bar provides less than 10 percent of the daily recommended amount of calcium. But, surprisingly, a government survey shows that chocolate and products containing chocolate make substantial contributions to our daily intake of copper, an essential mineral in the prevention of anemia and, possibly, heart disease and cancer. Chocolate also provides significant amounts of magnesium, which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and building bones.
Statement of the Problem
Research that portrays chocolate as a healthy food may encourage chocoholics to toss aside their feelings of guilt and indulge to their heart's content. After all, research shows that chocolate is good for the heart. However, many agencies, such as the British Heart Foundation, are arguing that advising people to eat chocolate regularly is a reckless message that should be ignored. A more accurate message would be, according to the British Heart Foundation, to "enjoy a little chocolate in moderation, but ensure you eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily to get all the flavonoids you need without the added fat." (Steinberg) For example, research has shown that high amounts of flavonoids, which are found in chocolate, may also positively affect mechanisms involved in the maintenance of cardiovascular health. However, this information does not mean that large amounts of chocolate in the diet are going to prevent heart disease. The purpose of this study is to show that chocolate can be taken off the "guilty foods" list and added to the list of foods that are a part of a healthy diet. But it is important to also show the damaging effects of eating chocolate, which may be downplayed by the newest research promoting chocolate.
How can chocolate be beneficial to a balanced diet?
In what ways can chocolate be harmful to the body?
How has chocolate been used and abused throughout history?
Significance of the Study
While initial research on the benefits of chocolate is encouraging, it is obvious that large-scale, controlled human studies are missing and more research is needed. Chocolate was long believed to be a source of saturated fats, a type of fat that can have negative effects on overall health. More recently however, a number of studies have identified the fat in chocolate as being stearic acid, a type of fat that the body converts through a series of biochemical changes, into oleic acid, which does not have the same deleterious effects.
The problem lies with the type of chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content is a potential source of antioxidants, but what makes up the remaining 30%? Also, it appears that many studies that have been performed have been minimal and their results have been somewhat misleading. It is important to examine the facts and the result of the research to come...