Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sad News

As reported in New Scientist, one of my esteemed colleagues from Mt Cook Village has expired after eating too much chocolate. Seriously folks, what are you doing throwing chocolate into the garbage can in a National Park? The kea is now officially endangered.


Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

12 20 07


December 20, 2007 11:21 PM  
Blogger nige said...

Thanks for that link to a (for once) interesting New Scientist article. I knew that you can't give chocolate to dogs because of the toxic theo bromine, but obviously the big question to me (answered in the New Scientist article) is why humans can eat chocolate without ill effects:

"Chocolate is one such human product which can be extremely dangerous to dogs and especially smaller dogs.

"The active ingredient in cocoa is Theobromine. Theobromine is used in the veterinary trade in the form of its Salicylate as a diuretic for dogs. A therapeutic dose range is 0.15 - 0.5g for small-large dogs. The drops are formulated to contain a very small amount of cocoa powder and it’s effect is substituted by high quality flavourings.

"Our choc drops contain Theobromine at the level of 0.03% w/w which means that small dog would need to eat 500g of drops immediately and a large dog 2.5k immediately to constitute a therapeutic dose of Theobromine."

Another page says:

"The naturally occurring theobromine found in chocolate, cocoa beans, cocoa bean hulls, cola, and tea, is responsible for the poisoning effect in dogs. Dogs are unable to metabolize this element quickly enough to prevent poisoning. The lethal dose of this agent is determined by weight and falls roughly into the category of 250-500 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This equates to approximately 2/3 to 1 1/3 oz bakers chocolate for every 2.2 pounds though signs of poisoning begin to appear at a much lower ingestion levels." -

New Scientist's article adds:

"The reason humans don't turn up their toes after bingeing on chocolate is largely down to the speed at which our bodies metabolise theobromine, the most abundant methylxanthine in chocolate. Rats metabolise it much more slowly than humans, and dogs are slower still. There are no reliable figures for theobromine toxicity in humans, but based on caffeine toxicity an average adult would have to gorge on around 50 kilograms of milk chocolate in a single sitting to get anywhere near a lethal dose."

I'm unclear about whether other substances in chocolate are really very healthy or not for people. It's shocking to see how much saturated fat (the stuff which ends up blocking arteries) milk and even plain chocolate contains (here in the UK that information has only recently been added to food labelling).

I don't care too much about the sugar content, since you burn that up easily when active and exercising, especially in cold weather. However, some sites claim that a major portion of the type of saturated fat in chocolate isn't bad because apparently much of it gets converted by the liver into a monounsaturated fat which is more healthy:

"Chocolate contains cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat, yet one-third of chocolate's fat comes from stearic acid. Although it's a saturated fat, stearic acid does not raise LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) as do most other saturated fats. Stearic acid is converted in the liver to oleic acid, a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat.

"Another one-third of chocolate's total fat comes from oleic acid itself. In a recent study, volunteers followed a diet with the majority of their fat calories coming from either chocolate or from butter. The volunteers who consumed chocolate fat did not show an increase in their cholesterol levels, but those who ate butterfat developed elevated LDL cholesterol levels."


I wonder if this is true? Presumably it only applies to plain chocolate, not the saturated fats in milk chocolate. Unfortunately, I prefer milk chocolate (plain makes me feel ill). It looks as if chocolate should be put on the list of banned foods this Christmas.

December 21, 2007 3:28 AM  

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