While chocolate should only be eaten in moderation, researches said there is a guilt-free way for families to enjoy chocolate treats. Studies have found that chocolate is less likely to cause dental decay than other sweet foods. Is it truth?
In fact, researchers have found chocolate can protect against tooth decay. It is so successful in combating decay that scientists believe some of its components may one day be added to mouthwash or toothpaste.
New research, shows that eating chocolate could prevent cancer and heart disease and contrary to popular belief also fights tooth decay. Researchers believe that most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false. For example, chocolate also has not been proven to cause dental cavities or tooth decay. Rather, it helps thwart mouth bacteria and stop dental decay.
A study carried out by researchers at Osaka University in Japan found that parts of the cocoa bean, the main ingredient of chocolate, thwart mouth bacteria and tooth decay.
They discovered that the cocoa bean husk – the outer part of the bean which usually goes to waste in chocolate production – has an anti-bacterial effect on the mouth and can fight effectively against dental plaque and other damaging agents.
There is also a myth to the effect that chocolate cause cavities. Wrong. Foods that contain fermentable carbohydrates (FCs) are the nasty cavity-causing culprit! Although FCs are found in chocolate, the cocoa butter in chocolate coats the teeth, making it less likely to cause tooth decay. Chocolate may be high in sugar, but it melts quickly in your mouth, leaving little time for bacteria to attack your teeth and cause cavities. Plus, if you brush regularly, you won’t have a problem!
Tooth cavities and tooth decay start when streptococcus mutans bacteria produce a sticky molecule called glucan. This helps the bacteria anchor themselves to teeth and form plaque. These and other bacteria in plaque convert sugar to acids, which eat away the tooth’s surface and lead to cavities.
The cariostatic activity of cacao mass extract (CM), the main component of chocolate, was examined in vitro and in experimental animals. CM showed no detectable effects on the cellular growth and acid production of mutans streptococci.
The Japanese scientists found that chocolate is less harmful than many other sweet foods because the antibacterial agents in cocoa beans offset its high sugar levels.
However, as in the case of any other food, eating too much of chocolate may cause health problems. The cocoa butter in chocolate does contain saturated fat, which can increase blood cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol may contribute to heart disease.
The medicinal use of cacao, or chocolate, both as a primary remedy and as a vehicle to deliver other medicines, originated in the New World and diffused to Europe in the mid 1500s. These practices originated among the Olmec, Maya and Mexica (Aztec).
The word cacao is derived from Olmec and the subsequent Mayan languages (kakaw); the chocolate-related term cacahuatl is Nahuatl (Aztec language), derived from Olmec/Mayan etymology. Early colonial era documents included instructions for the medicinal use of cacao.
The Badianus Codex (1552) noted the use of cacao flowers to treat fatigue, whereas the Florentine Codex (1590) offered a prescription of cacao beans, maize and the herb tlacoxochitl (Calliandra anomala) to alleviate fever and panting of breath and to treat the faint of heart.
Subsequent 16th to early 20th century manuscripts produced in Europe and New Spain revealed 100 medicinal uses for cacao/chocolate.
Three consistent roles can be identified: 1) to treat emaciated patients to gain weight; 2) to stimulate nervous systems of apathetic, exhausted or feeble patients; and 3) to improve digestion and elimination where cacao/chocolate countered the effects of stagnant or weak stomachs, stimulated kidneys and improved bowel function.
Additional medical complaints treated with chocolate/cacao have included anemia, poor appetite, mental fatigue, poor breast milk production, consumption/tuberculosis, fever, gout, kidney stones, reduced longevity and poor sexual appetite/low virility.
Chocolate paste was a medium used to administer drugs and to counter the taste of bitter pharmacological additives. In addition to cacao beans, preparations of cacao bark, oil (cacao butter), leaves and flowers have been used to treat burns, bowel dysfunction, cuts and skin irritations.
Our advice remains the same: if people want to eat sugary sweets and drinks they should limit them to meal times, and visit their dentist regularly.