Going Dutch on Dark Chocolate

During the production of dark chocolate, cacao beans are fermented, roasted, and processed into 3 components: chocolate liquorcocoa butter, and cocoa powder.  These are combined in various proportions to make unsweetened chocolate.  Sugar can be added to make dark chocolate, or milk & sugar added for milk chocolate.  White chocolate has no cocoa; it’s essentially cocoa butter, sugar, and milk.


Chocolate chart

Cocoa powder is slightly acidic, and sometimes this is neutralized via the Dutch process.  You may notice recipes with natural cocoa powder have baking soda as the leavening agent, whereas those with Dutch process cocoa need baking powder which is mildly acidic.  Besides reducing acidity, the Dutch process also increases cocoa solubility and improves some flavor aspects.

Dutch-process cocoa

However, the Dutch process also reduces cocoa flavanols (Miller et al., 2008 & Payne et al., 2010).

Some argue this is a bad thing, as these might be responsible for the cardiovascular benefits of dark chocolate, but Peter (Hyperlipid) HATES flavanols because as Purp pointed out, they inhibit superoxide generation.


However, this could theoretically be counteracted by the phenylethylamine in chocolate (Sengupta and Mohanakumar, 2010).  There’s a dark side to phenylethylamine (Borah et al., 2013), but this is all likely irrelevant because orally administered phenylethylamine should undergo significant first-pass metabolism.   For what it’s worth, chocolate has about 0.5 mg phenylethylamine per 100 grams and is recommended for P.O. administration.phenylethylamine

By reducing the flavanol content, might Dutch processing offer a benefit?  I don’t know.  Ha!  Baker’s and Scharffen Berger offer non-Dutch processed chocolate, whereas Hershey’s, Lindt, Ghirardelli, and Guittard all use the Dutched stuff.

You could get around all this and go for cocoa butter, but where’s the fun in that?

Cocoa butter is very rich in saturated fatty acids which are remarkably hepatoprotective against alcohol-induced liver injury.  And I suspect the protection goes far beyond that of alcohol…

There are probably multiple mechanisms at play here, one of which being resistance to oxidative stress.  You and colleagues showed cocoa butter (HSF) completely blunted the alcohol-induced increase in liver enzymes in a rodent model:Cocoa butter

It works with MCTs too (Kirpich et al., 2012), further suggesting alternate mechanisms as MCTs are saturated fats, but aren’t readily incorporated into membranes or lipid droplets.

Flavanols might also play a role here.

In one rodent study, cocoa polyphenols (which includes flavanols) weren’t able to prevent alcohol-induced retinol-wasting*, but completely prevented the steatosis and oxidative damage to the livers of alcohol-fed rats (Suzuki et al., 2013):Suzuki liver data

*chronic alcohol ingestion upregulates the enzymatic machinery involved in alcohol metabolism.  Retinol is collateral damage.

Another study showed an epicatechin-rich cocoa extract had a similar effect (epicatechins are flavanols) (McKim et al., 2002).


McKim liver TG

McKim liver pathology

Collectively, these results suggest: intact dark chocolate FTW.  Regarding the Dutch process, there are still a lot of flavanols remaining after cocoa has been Dutched, so this is not likely going to have a major impact on dark chocolate’s hepatoprotection.  It’s possible that the reduced superoxide generation is part of the protective effect of dark chocolate, although clearly not essential as a similar degree of protection is conferred by cocoa butter (which lacks cocoa polyphenols/flavanols/epicatechins).

Further reading:
Liver is evil but need not be punished.  SFAs.
Alcohol-proof your liver.  SFAs.

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  • Gerard Pinzone

    Trader Joe’s “The Dark Chocolate Lover’s Chocolate Bar” is my favorite source of dark chocolate. It’s 85% cacao, split into two thin bars instead of one thick one, and has a flavor that is unmatched. It’s great to use in low carb recipes, too.

  • Mario

    I’m in Canada, and I’ve tried a LOT of chocolate from all over the world, including TJ’s. IMO the winners for taste, quality and best/healthiest ingredients are;


    89% http://www.trulyorganicfoods.com/giddy-yoyo-raw-vegan-chocolate-bars.php


    and available almost anywhere;


    Giddy Yoyo also sells cacao butter, nibs and powder… If you can get your hands on their products, I highly recommend them!

    • Thanks for the links! much appreciated 🙂

      • Mario

        There’s a pharmacy chain up here that often sells Lindt bars at 2 for $5 – great deal, I stock up…

        For me Lindt is better in the evening as it doesn’t affect my sleep. If I consume the Giddy Yoyo paste in the evening, it will take me a long time to fall asleep.

        • That’s pretty interesting. I wonder if that’s because Giddy Yoyo is raw… more caffeine derivatives?

          And perhaps a Scotch or Bourbon post in the future 😉

          • Mario

            According to the GY website;

            “We go to great lengths to ensure the pureness & quality of our CACAO. There is a complete lack of mycotoxins, mold, yeast, and fungus in GY CACAO and each batch is lab tested. These toxins are the cause of the adrenal response of jitteriness that is similar to caffeine stimulation in many cacao products. Contrary to popular opinion, cacao contains very little, if any, caffeine. It has been clinically demonstrated that cacao does not elevate blood sugar in the same way as a caffeine containing food or beverage. Instead, GY CACAO helps to create a cosmic conscious connection and cause pineal gland expansion.”

            And I’ll drink to a future S/B post for sure!

  • Wenchypoo

    I have arthritis, and Lindt makes my hip joints hurt. Got any info on carob?

    • carob is safe for dogs; seems high sugar though*

      Perhaps they’ll make a “dark carob” 🙂

      On another note, have you noticed this with other dark chocolates?

      *http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4324/2 & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratonia_siliqua#Uses

    • Just read this today. Not sure how to interpret, but seems to imply carob isn’t very tasty?


      “Carob works on the principle that, when mixed with the right combination of fats and sugar, it can duplicate chocolate in color and texture. Of course, the same can be said of dirt.” Sandra Boynton

      • George

        Yup, I must say I ate a bit of carob back in the day, and the memory of it holds no appeal for me at all.

    • George

      I suspect either soy lecithin, which varies in how much soy protein it contains, or milk solids, ditto. Depending on processing either could be allergenic.
      Also, chocolate is a seed and is high on lists of allergens in its own right, alas.

  • Ankit
    • Gram for gram, cocoa butter has about half as much stearate as dark chocolate.

      Cocoa butter provided almost 40% of the calories in the rodent study. This would translate to ~90 grams on a 2000 kcal diet, which seems too high. I dunno. Maybe try using it in place of regular butter for a few days? I’d start with a very low amount to make sure no GI issues.

      • Mario

        GY offers the same thing, and I bought a bag early on.

        I tried it as is, not pleasurable, otherwise I would have remembered and I’d still be eating it.

        I also tried it (30g) in my coffee a few mornings, but if I am gonna put anything in my coffee, it’s gonna be 35% organic heavy cream, or bulletproof style = butter and coconut oil.

        Either way, I did not have any GI issues.

        My .02.

    • Ankit, also see Mario’s comment:

  • I JUST KNOW I EAT THIS EVERY DAY OMG YUM. nice to know it’s okay about it 🙂

    • your adipose will solidify during CT!

      • George

        Hey, maybe BAT and uncoupling is an adaptation to prevent us solidifying by burning up SFAs in the cold?

  • Tuck

    Bill, isn’t it equally likely that *removing* the PUFA allowed the liver to function correctly, and that any sat. fat source minus PUFA would have seen the same results?

    • Perhaps, but dark chocolate is my favorite source 😉

      • Tuck

        Yeah, I agree with that. I keep a few bars under my desk, it’s comforting to know I’m keeping NAFLD at bay… 😉

  • Paul

    Hello Bill,
    Lindt 85% has changed it’s nutrition label from
    cocoa mass, low fat cocoa powder, cocoa butter, demerara sugar, made for
    France to cocoa mass, COCOA POWDER, cocoa butter, SUGAR. Made in U.S.A.
    per100gr France U.S.A.

    protein 11 11
    fat 46 46
    sat fat 28 28
    carbs 19 37
    sugars 14 13

    What makes the difference from 19 to 37 in the carbs, low fat cocoa powder to cocoa powder?

    • I don’t know, but that’s a pretty big difference!

      Apparently, someone asked the company about it and didn’t get a very good answer (surprise surprise): http://boards.atkins.com/archive/index.php/t-84518.html

    • Mario

      I’ve noticed a couple of minor differences in some of Lindt’s bars up here in Canada before, and it is frustrating, but even MORE frustrating is the difference in bars between Canada and the USA… I don’t know if the ingredients are actually different, or they just name them differently, for whatever reason… For example the 90% in Canada is named and contains cacao whereas in the USA it’s cocoa. My understanding is the these are different…?

      • I think it has to do with the context. Agriculturally, it’s cacao. As a food or food ingredient, it’s cocoa.

        There a few food companies that use ‘cacao,’ but I think this is just to be trendy, make their product look unique, etc.

      • “Cacao nibs and powder (as opposed to the cocoa powder you might already have at home) use the name “cacao” to designate the raw, unprocessed version of the bean. ”


        • Mario

          That article lost me at David Wolfe – something about him rubs me the wrong way, lol.

          I’ll say it again, ima very happy Giddy f’g Yoyo is a Canadian company because their raw cacao paste, nibs and powder are awesome. Period!

          Wish they’d offer up a 90% bar tho, for those days where one might want a bit of sweetness…

  • I’m eating 50g of dark chocolate 85% cocoa each day and it’s great! It’s about 8-9 grams of net carbohydrate and it doesn’t affect my ketosis.

    Great post Bill! keep it up!

    • Thanks, Chris!

      That’s about the same amount of dark chocolate I frequently eat with breakfast. And sometimes lunch, too 🙂

      • are you in ketosis Bill?

        • Probably occasionally, but I don’t measure.

          • Thomas Hemming Larsen

            Get a Ketonix man! 😛

  • George

    “Cocoa butter is very rich in saturated fatty acids which are remarkably hepatoprotective against alcohol-induced liver injury. And I suspect the protection goes far beyond that of alcohol…”
    Yes, yes it does.
    Acetaminophen model of liver toxicity:
    “Although diets that contain SFA and possibly MUFA may protect the liver against toxic agents, it is unlikely that any public agency would recommend an increase in intake of animal fats. ”
    More fool them. That’s a good paper because it looks at how diet alters membrane lipid composition, and relates that to the protection.

    Ambiguous results with carbon tetrachloride
    interesting, but a lot wrong with the experiment as the high-palmitate “western” diet was 46% sugar and 36% butter fat, with a high cholesterol load (1.5g/Kg).
    The control diet is not included, but was presumably the usual low-fat, low-sugar chow.
    It is possible that the same slowing of repair that worsened an acute CCl4 injury here is protective against the low-grade chronic insult of alcohol, but hard to tell from the model chosen.

    Note that hepatoprotective epicatechins and other polyphenols (green tea, silymarin extracts) can be hepatotoxic to some people, so probably not a “more is better” scenario for everyone.

    • I’ve seen a few case reports of reversible liver damage with EGCG… perhaps there’s a reason why bioavailability is so incredibly low.

  • Philip Clax

    Why are y’all eating chocolate with sugar in any way? Go for 100% cacao dark chocolate, it’s the food of the gods!