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What Dr. Mercola Didn’t Say about Dark Chocolate and Cardiovascular Disease

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Dr. Mercola, the top-ranked health blogger, just posted a great piece about dark chocolate and health. (Long time readers will note that I linked back to because that’s what happy healthy bloggers do…) But Dr. Mercola’s generally on-target advice is missing a key piece of information this time. Read on to learn more.

I’m a big fan of chocolate’s health effects and blogged about it here a while back. Dr. Mercola writes about a new meta-analysis from Cambridge University’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, which evaluated 4,576 studies of chocolate involving 114,009 people, which determined:

Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders.

The Bulletroof Diet – including carefully selected dark chocolate – already addresses cardiometabolic disorders, which include:

  • Hypertension
  • Elevated fasting glucose
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Elevated triglycerides

The chocolate study showed that people who ate the most chocolate had

  • 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease, and
  • 29 percent reduction in stroke

Higher Doses of Chocolate

Dr. Mercola is correct in advising people to eat very dark chocolate with low sugar and no additives like milk. In fact, I eat dark chocolate instead of a food bar, because chocolate has more healthy fat than any meal replacement bar I can find. It tastes better too.

However, he references a study recommending only 7 grams of dark chocolate per day. This seems conservative, considering the study I referenced in my earlier chocolate post  showed 45 grams of quality chocolate every single day for eight weeks resulted in  improved cholesterol levels without a single bad side effect.

Permission to be a Chocolate Snob: Avoiding Chocolate Toxins

But the dose isn’t where Dr. Mercola missed the mark. It’s all about the toxins. I write and speak extensively about mycotoxins. In fact, the Bulletproof Diet works better than Paleo because it accounts for mycotoxins in food selection.

Biotoxins including mycotoxins like aflatoxin form during cocoa production. Mishandled or insect-damaged cocoa beans get fungal growth during and after the process of fermentation. They continue to form during storage too.

According to the International Journal of Food Microbiology Vol. 125 (2008) the aspergillus flavus fungi that infects cocoa makes more toxins that just aflatoxin:

The present study reports on the natural mycobiota occurring in cocoa beans, paying special attention to the incidence of fungal species that are potential producers of mycotoxins. The results show that predominant fungi were different species of the genus Aspergillus belonging to section Flavi and Nigri. … Potential ability to produce aflatoxins (AFs) B1, B2, G1 and G2, cyclopiazonic acid (CPA)and ochratoxin A (OTA) was studied by isolate culture followed by HPLC analysis of these mycotoxins in the culture extracts. Results indicated that 64.1% and 34.2% of the A. flavus strains produced AFs and CPA, respectively. Most of the A. flavus strains presented moderate toxigenicity with mean levels of AFs ranging from 100 ng g?1 to 1000 ng g?1. All the CPA-producing strains of A. flavus were highly toxigenic producing N30 ?g g?1 of CPA. Furthermore, 98% of A. tamarii strains produced CPA and over 50% of them were highly CPA toxigenic. With respect to OTA-producing fungi, a high percentage of black aspergilli strains (49.2%) were able to produce OTA. Additionally, most of the OTA-producing isolates were of moderate toxigenicity, producing amounts of OTA from 10 ?g g?1 to 100 ?g g?1. These results indicate that there is a possible risk factor posed by AFs, CPA and OTA contamination of cocoa beans, and consequently, cocoa products.

The bottom line is that chocolate is a high risk food for mycotoxins. So then why do I eat it?

Because mold-free chocolate tastes great, is healthy, and makes you feel good. But it has to be mold-free. There is no way to be 100% certain that any chocolate is mold-free, but you can take some specific steps to find the good stuff, ensuring you get the healthy effects without the cancer and cardiovascular dangers of mycotoxins.

I recommend European chocolates because the mold standards in Europe are better than in the US. Lindt is the most consistently mold-free in my experience, and it’s affordable and widely available at most grocery stores. But even so, about 20% of the batches of Lindt I try seem to have mycotoxin problems. I can tell because a) I’m hyper-trained to be aware of my mental and physical state and b) I used to live in a house with toxic mold, so my immune system is primed to respond quickly.

You should buy a bar of Lindt 90% dark and try it on an empty stomach away from other foods. Watch how you feel – do you get joint pain, very dry mouth, stomach pain, or headaches? If so, that is not the batch for you. If you feel fine for the first hour or two, you’re probably eating good chocolate, and you can have more.

The 99% bar also has zero grams of sugar.

I highly recommend you store opened chocolate in the freezer or fridge, as the mold will continue to grow on opened bars of chocolate that sit out overnight.

I’ve researched ways to test chocolate for mold at home, and there isn’t a viable way to do it, yet. Give me some time and I’ll solve that too!

It’s time for me to enjoy some Bulletproof Coffee blended with a square of dark Lindt chocolate. Bulletproof Mocha…yum! In the meantime, give yourself permission to be a chocolate snob. Eat only the best you can find, and you’ll feel better, look better, and live longer. We live in an awesome world!


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Post date: September 21, 2011
  • Lauren

    Thanks for sharing. The chocolate bar in coffee sounds very good! Can I ask you what your thoughts are on a tablespoon of unsalted organic butter by KerryGold, a spoonful of organic coconut cream/butter, and some Coconut milk from Trader Joe’s? We whip that up in a cup of Kansas City Roasterie organic coffee… yummy! But is it as beneficial as your Bulletproof coffee?

    • Abram

      sounds good to me. I like to mix straight raw cacao powder with grass-fed butter. comes out kind of like icing, and super delicious I usually don’t sweeten it, but if you do it’s totally out of control. coconut oil works well for this too.

  • Jonathan

    Great post. Especially since I eat 50g of dark chocolate (85%) most days! I think of it as coffee in block form. Great for concentration. Your sensitivity to mycotoxins seems extraordinary to me. By your reckoning 1 in 5 of the bars I eat must be contaminated but it’s not something I’ve ever noticed. Sometimes get a crash straight after coffee though so I suppose that could be mycotoxin-related.

  • Glenn

    Many thanks for the post.
    IMHO the very best chocolate in the world is 100% from Pralus (in France, but available wordwide)

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  • Naomi Most

    I keep a bar of Lindt 90% in my desk drawer at all times. It is the most satisfying quick food I’ve ever found, and this particular bar is astonishingly tasty. Probably because of the very good vanilla they use.

    When I feel I can add more carbs to my quick meal, I pair it with almond butter and a little piece of medjool date. OMG yum.

    I also like the Taza Stone Ground 87%, which seems to be seasonal. I can’t always find it.

  • Angel Donovan

    Lindt 99% is not sugar free. See nutrition info:

    It also mentions there may be ‘peanut’ micro-traces in it. There are 100% cocoa chocolate bars now in US and UK – less elsewhere. I’ve ordered online – haven’t yet reduced to list of brands/ products in terms of preference – would love to see that if you come up with it!

  • Sean

    Since consuming mycotoxins seems inexorable, I’m interested in means to reduce their effects or detox them.

    A search on “vitamin c mycotoxins” reveals: … “Our powerful solution against mycotoxins: MiaMyco-Fit and Mia-BOND®”… How does MiaMyco-Fit/Mia-BOND® work?
    — MiaMyco-Fit strengthens the immune system! It supports the animal’s metabolism if the feed is burdened with mycotoxins as these cause significant stress on the animal. ****Highly available vitamin E, vitamin C and tannins have an antioxidant effect****, which lowers animal stress. The metabolism is activated and the immune system strengthened.
    …MiaMyco-Fit binds mycotoxins! It contains a combination of various mycotoxin binders, which adsorb the mycotoxins. As soon as the mycotoxins are bound, they can be excreted.
    — Mia-BOND® binds aflatoxins! Due to their structure, aflatoxins can be easily bound to clay minerals. By means of a balanced combination of various minerals and frame substances, Mia-BOND® effectively binds the various forms of aflatoxins.
    …The mineral’s special chemical-physical modification properties are responsible for an irreversible mycotoxin adsorption. This enables the mycotoxins to be discarded with the excrements.

  • Damian

    is buying a organic raw cocoa beans a better option than buying lindt?

    • c

      Yes I am interested in this as well!!

  • Gladina

    Is Green & Black’s OK too? It says it’s organic. I like BOTH Lindt and G & B as I find they offer different tastes despite being the same % of chocolate. I also have this 100% coca bar too, it’s SOOOOO good! It’s like coffee a bit (like another commenter said). Like it just has this taste that I can compare to coffee in a way! Chocolate—YUM!

    • Dave Asprey

      I haven’t had as much luck with G&B as with Lindt, but it sure tastes good!

      • Gladina

        Thanks for the reply! Yes, I tested G & B on it’s own away from food and had more than I usually have…and actually did get a bit of a head ache (sad), so it could have some mycotoxins…but that could have been a 1/5 like with Lindt you say. I will get a Lindt again…lol. I don’t feel bad if I am stuck and can only get G & B though. Thanks for your advice and good tips! Even for us non-executive people, functioning at a higher level is still beneficial. I’ve been following Dr. K protocol with his CT, and I am def. much much better off. Mental clarity and mood are stable and I can manage stress A LOT better.

        • Gladina

          …with addition of BP coffee.

        • Dave Asprey

          So glad you’re working well! We’re all our own executives at the end of the day. ?

      • Sean

        I now make my own chocolate bars with Bensdorp cocoa “Holland Glory”, coconut oil, and butter.


  • Ben

    I use exclusively sugar free chocolate and I add coco Butter and effectively make my own. I add my sweetener of choice (stevia and erythritol) had a bad reaction to xylitol). I use equal parts chololate and coco butter. I have used Dagoba, Sharfen Berger, and Giradelli. Each has their own flavor, I haven’t settled on my favorite. My question is how do you deterimine the level of micotoxins

  • Ken


    I am just starting the BP program. I was wondering how you feel about adding a bit of hershey’s raw coca (no sugar) and a serving of your BP protein to the mix. Will that mess anything up?

    Also, I have tended to drink my coffee black, since I have read that adding cream or milk to your coffee destroys the polyphenols in the coffee. Will adding butter do that?



    • Dave Asprey

      Don’t do it! Hershey’s is not high grade cocoa, and the better cocoa is less likely to have mold toxins. Go for a single estate, similar to picking coffee. Bulletproof Cocoa is on the way so you won’t get the inflammatory response!

    • Ken

      Ok, thanks.

      I look forward to it.


      • Sean

        KEN! “These days technology makes it increasingly hard, not to only to fight government tryanny, but to even know that your freedoms are under assault.”

        “Knowing is half the battle”:
        …The other half is actually living your values:

        …I’m using Bensdorp “Holland Glory” cocoa right now. I don’t sense any mycotoxins in this. Of course I’m awaiting BP-cocoa to compare these… I wonder if Dave’s cocoa will be “dutched”.

  • Sylvanarrow

    Any thoughts on some of the raw vegan chocolates out there such as Fearless? That brand is fairly low sugar/carb and higher fat/fiber but I dont know anything about toxins.

    For fats and a sweets fix, I like coconut butter warmed to melting and mixed with quality cacao powder and a handful of berries. Filling too.

    • Dave Asprey

      That’s a great snack!

      Raw chocolates vary by batch in how moldy or contaminated with amines they are. When “clean” theyre great!

      • [email protected]

        Hi Dave, So if you have some raw chocolate and/or raw cacao beans, what can one do to this chocolate and/or beans to get rid of any mold before eating? Thanks! John R.

  • LKAB

    What about using pure cocoa powder in your coffee? There is a Dutch processed brand in Whole Foods that I’ve been using — Rademaker — that I used to use in baking. Makes for an even foamier, creamy top on my Bulletproof Joe. Any reason to avoid cocoa?

    • Dave Asprey

      Unless it’s carefully processed and selected, cocoa is a big source of biogenic amines and mycotoxins too, right behind coffee!

      • LKAB

        Curses! Thanks for the fast reply. Heading out to get some Lindt…

  • Mirabelle

    I can’t wait for Bulletproof chocolate! I hope its dark and smooth.

    • Mirabelle

      By the way, my favorite is 85% Green and Black, but I am only today learning that chocolate also can be high in mycotoxins.

      • Dave Asprey

        Green & Black has great flavor for sure…but I feel less balanced after I eat it. ?

  • Victor Dorfman

    Duuude Lindt’s 90% is such a delicious chocolate bar and you can find it EVERYWHERE! Even the Walgreens on 16th and Mission has it while fancy pants Birite doesn’t ;-)

    However…There’s ONE dark chocolate bar that tastes better than ANY I’ve ever had, and my dad and I have bought every dark chocolate bar in North Florida so far as we know.

    Behold: Hachez 88% dark chocolate. Best tasting dark chocolate you never had. Don’t know about mycotoxin content on this one though but it’s European so presumably the standards are better than US.

  • joerg

    Hi there,

    I’ve got raw unprocessed chocklet nibs stored for about an year at my house. Wanted to grind them, yet according to this post, I should rather get rid of them due to mold formation, right?

  • Winslow Strong

    Anyone have some knowledge about baking chocolate? The benefit is you can find 100% cacao, with no sugar added. But I assume that (and judging by taste) the quality of these bars is not equal to those designed to be eaten alone. Mycotoxins galore?

    • Eric Olsen

      Be sure to check for Soy Oil in that brand. I found it to be in most of their bars.

  • home_remedies

    Does adding grapefruit extract or hydrogen peroxide neutralize mycotoxins?

  • montanami

    You need to try a Love Bite…
    Great raw, organic food bar that focuses on fat and protein rather than carbs.

  • Bulletproof Tiger
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  • Courtney bertwell

    when i try dark chocolate i fell sick afterwords why is that?

  • [email protected]

    I have a 2 lb bag of raw cacoa beans. What can I do to test the beans for molds? Or better yet what can I do to the beans to get of any molds, so that I can eat these, and get the health benefits? Thanks! John R.

  • gmotyka

    When will you do a podcast with Craig Sams? He can disucss heavy metal issues in chocolate as well!

  • Kkelly

    addicted fan of Lindt’s 90%, but when I want to be a snob, I’ve become a big fan of !

  • oughut

    I eat Lindt and Green and Black but no more than a few squares otherwise I feel as if I have an axe lodged in my skull.

  • Dr.Mohamed Salem

    i went to Ghana the second world producer for Cocoa and i succeed to solve the problem of mycotoxins in raw cocoa grains through our new innovative technology with my research group.Now,i can say with this technology our processed chocolate is safe now for our children.We are willing to collaborate with others all over the world to widespread our new and innovative technology.

    • Pete

      You keep killin it Mohamed.

  • David

    Lindt produces it’s US products in New Hampshire. It does the process A-Z there, clean, roast, and grind cocoa beans, along with process it into the liquor, so I’m sure it does maintain the quality. Yet I don’t believe it’s under Europe’s stricter standards. Personally, despite the price, I like Toblarones. The almonds and honey are a plus in my opinion.
    Article about Lindt’s plant in NH:

  • Will Killyou

    Lindt in the US is now made in the US and the formulations has changed. They are now sweeter and “smoother” and for my taste not very good, They used to be great for the money and availability. I think you can obtain the proper lindt bars in Canada and of course Europe!

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