"If you´re not feeling well, if you have not slept, chocolate will revive you, but you have no chocolate, I think of that again and again, my dear, how will you ever manage?"

Marquise de Sebigne,
year 1777


a book by Phillip Minton, M.D.

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Nature has imbued many whole foods, including the cocoa bean, with a plethora of cancer fighting natural substances.  Can you think of a better way to fight cancer than to do so by enjoying some of our most flavorful foods?  Chocolate may prove to be the most delicious way to fight cancer, and lessen the chance that we may get it.

Chocolate and the Program of Life
An interesting way to consider all life on planet Earth is that it is the result of a “program of life”.  Many recent scientific discoveries point to the fact that life on earth is the result of a program for life, encoded and maintained within the genes of every living cell.  If this program of life is disturbed or damaged, it may result in cancer forming within the organism. 

The authors’ current thoughts on carcinogenesis are related to the history of the human genetic material.  In a nutshell, the author postulates that modern-day human genes are the result of past “life programming”.   “Life-programming“ means that genes, the controlling units of the living human cell, are themselves the result of a controlling factor that programmed them to produce and maintain life.  The programming can be said to have occurred as the result of either evolutionary processes or the actions of the divine, if not some combination of both.  The controlling factor that produced the program is therefore either the natural evolution process itself, or an act of the divine.  In either case, the result is that all life today, including human life, is the result of the genes that maintain and control life.  Human beings, for example, are comprised of billions of cells, each the result of the genetic material held within them.  The billions of cells are genetically programmed to work together to form a healthy human being during fetal development in the womb, and to maintain that individual throughout the natural lifespan.  In cancer, this genetic program is disrupted, resulting in masses of harmful dysfunctional cells known as tumors.

<…> You may be thinking…”this is all quite interesting but how does it relate to chocolate?”  Chocolate is one of natures’ richest sources of beneficial nutrients and natural chemicals that are good for health.  Our bodies, via their genes, may have an inherent ability to respond in a positive way to the many forms of goodness found within the cocoa bean.  Scientific research has shown that genes can sense, and respond to, many forms of chemicals, both man-made and natural.  Some chemicals are poisonous and cause the genes to respond in ways that may be harmful to the organism. Other chemicals are positive in that they induce a genetic response that is healthful and healing.  The natural chemicals in chocolate seem to cause the genes to respond in very healthy ways.

Diet and Cancer
The things we eat can affect the incidence and severity of cancer.  Mounting scientific evidence attests to the fact that a healthy diet rich in wholesome foods like those made from the cocoa bean promote good health and have an effect against cancer. For more than a decade scientists have known that certain genes protect us against cancer.  These cancer repressor genes work in two ways.  They sense that cancer is developing, and they turn on protective mechanisms to eliminate the threat.   It is a possibility that our genes either were designed or have inherited a positive healthful response to the presence of the beneficial substances found in the cocoa bean.  This response may be to turn on genes that protect us from caner, or to turn off other genes that make cancer more likely (the so-called oncogenes).  The genes may have this ability to respond to chocolate and other foods by means of their inherited or programmed memory.

In the November 2003 issue of Cornell University News, it was reported that coca froth is richer in cancer-preventing compounds than are green tea or red wine.(ref 1&2)  Professor Chang Lee and colleagues published their findings in the American Chemical Society “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry”.  Dr. Chang Lee, who is the chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., noted that his research revealed that  hot cocoa is much richer in known naturally occurring anti-cancer substances than either red wine or green tea.  His research shoed that hot coca contains significant amounts of phenolic phytochemcials (chemical naturally occurring in plants) known as flavonoids.  The flavonoids are known cancer fighters.  The specific phenolic compounds were gallic acid and epicatechin.  They reported the data as gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and epicatechin equivalents (ECE).

Material Tested            GAE             ECE     
Serving of Cocoa          611             564
Cup Green Tea             165              47
Glass Red Wine            340             163

Dr. Lee is quoted as saying that prior to the study, he would have guessed that green tea would have been the richest in antioxidant activity, but it turned out to be cocoa.  He said that when comparing a normal serving of each beverage. Coca had by far the most cancer fighting antioxidant compounds.  He sated that phenols found in plants protect the plants against disease, and remain active after being processed into foods.  Dr. Lee recommends drinking cocoa, red wine, or green tea, depending upon the time of day and other components of a meal.  All are thought have beneficial health effects (although the alcohol in red wine can have deleterious effects in high doses).

To further elaborate on the anti-cancer effects of coca, we must consider a big word with a large beneficial effect on health.  That word is “proanthocyanidin”.  These are condensed tannins (natural chemicals found in many foods, and one of the compounds engendering red wine with flavor and palatability).  Proanthocyanidins are widespread in edible plants.  They have been found to have many properties making them good for health. (ref 3)

Dr. Tuckmantel and co-researchers state that there is a growing body of evidence that proanthocyanidins are potent antioxidants and have anti-cancer effects.  They tested coca, and found that the proanthocyanidins in cocoa have the effect of inhibiting the growth of several human cancer cell lines, including human breast cancer cells, in the laboratory.  (ref 4)   These tannins are thought to be quite important to protect the plants during its’ life, but also to impart benefical health results to the animals that consume the plants, including humans.  The proanthocyanidins are found in abundance in cocoa, green tea, and red wine, among many other natural plant-derived foods.

Dr. Ilja Arts and colleagues at the Holland National Institute of Public Health studied the catechins in chocolate, and showed that it is rich in these cancer fighting anti-oxidants.  They quantified the amounts of catechins in various foods.

Type of Food             Catechins per 100grams
dark chocolate                     53.5mg
milk chocolate                      15.9mg
black tea infusion                13.9mg

The effect of cocoa on lung cancer was studied by researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Health Sciences.  Dr. Yamagishi and colleagues tested the effect of cocoa liquor on lung cancer cell lines transplanted into test rats. (ref 5)   Coca liquor is the oily liquid that results when the cocoa bean is pressed.  It is present in most cocoa and chocolate products to varying degrees.   They found that cocoa liquor proanthocyanidins exert chemo-preventive effects (beneficial anti-cancer effects of the natural chemicals found in the cocoa as proanthocyanidins) in lung cancer instigated in the test rats.  Specifically, they measured that the final survival rate was higher in the test group receiving the coca liquor, their incidence of lung tumors was less, and tumors in the rats’ thyroid glands were diminished in a manner related to higher doses of coca liquor proanthocyanidin administered to the rats. 

Dr. John Weisberger, in a publication in the journal “Experimental Biology and Medicine”, reveals his opinions that chocolate can fight cancer and other degenerative diseases common to mankind. (ref 6)   He contends that research shows that cocoa and chocolate are rich in natural cancer fighting compounds such as procyanidins, epicatechins, catechins, and other polyphenols, and that the dietary intake of foods rich in thee antioxidants raises the blood level of the antioxidants, thus yielding beneficial effects against cancer.  He is quoted as stating, “research shows that the coca bean, and tasty products derived from the coca bean such as chocolate, ad  the beverage cocoa, popular with many people worldwide, is rich in specific antioxidants, with he basic structure of catechins and epicatechin, and especially the polymers procyanidins, polyphenols similar to those found in vegetables and tea.  Metabolic epidemiologic studies indicate that regular intake of such products increases the plasma levels of antioxidants, a desirable attribute as a defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS)   “…studies show that ROS associated with the carcinogenic processes is also inhibited”.  “Based on the knowledge acquired thus far, it would seem reasonable to suggest inhibition of the several phases of the complex process leading to cancer, as a function of quantitative intake of antioxidants, including those from cocoa and chocolates.”  

Karen Collins, R.D. of the American Institute for Cancer Research, is quoted as stating that flavonoids found in chocolate can fight cancer and other diseases.  She advocates the consumption of foods high in flavonoids, such as vegetables and fruits. She seems to be concerned that when people read that chocolates contain these healthful flavonoids, that they will prefer it to fruits and vegetables because chocolate is more tasty.

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