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With Comments by Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD
April 2001; Volume 3; 31
Source: Shahkhalili Y, et al. Calcium supplementation of chocolate: Effect on cocoa butter digestibility and blood lipids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;73:246-252.
Design/Setting/Subjects: A randomized, double-blind, crossover trial with controlled food intake in 10 men.
Intervention: Chocolate 98-101 g/d with or without a 0.9% calcium supplement (0.9 g/d calcium) for two weeks.
Results: Calcium supplementation reduced absorption of cocoa butter by 13% and doubled fecal fat. LDL cholesterol was reduced by 15%; there is no effect on HDL cholesterol.
Funding: Nestec Ltd., Nestle research center, Lausanne, Switzerland.
Comment: Long story short: Combining calcium and chocolate reduces fat absorption. Why isn’t this front-page news? This is an important article to us chocolate lovers. It’s not a particularly appetizing piece but I have waded through all of the lengthy discussions of fecal fat and intestinal formation of cocoa butter soaps so that you don’t have to.
Apparently cocoa butter is a dietetic fat in rats, which do not absorb cocoa butter well (the absorbability of most fats is above 95%, cocoa butter only has about 60-70% digestibility in rats). It is unfortunate that humans absorb 89-94% of cocoa butter. It is thought that an important factor is differences in calcium intake between rats and humans; calcium may bind with saturated fatty acids and cocoa butter to form insoluble, indigestible soap. Adding small amounts of calcium (0.9% as 2.25% calcium carbonate) to chocolate reduced the digestibility of cocoa butter from 95% to 83%. The chocolate used was 31% cocoa butter by weight and it was calculated that the absorbable energy value of the chocolate was reduced by 9%. LDL cholesterol decreased significantly (by 15%) during the calcium-supplemented chocolate period; the mechanism for this is unclear (reduced absorption of fatty acids could not explain that large an effect). An important note: The addition of calcium did not change the taste of the chocolate, according to several confectionary experts who acted as tasters.
Readers of this newsletter already know that calcium supplements should be taken with meals to reduce the risk of renal stones (see Alternative Therapies in Women’s Health, April 2000). Here’s a good argument for popping a calcium pill with chocolate snacks. Hey, parents! Calcium reduces calorie absorption from chocolate.... Finally, an argument for taking calcium supplements that teenage girls can understand.