ConsumerLab selected and tested eight cocoa products promoted as sources of flavanols (polyphenols) and sold in the form of a capsule, powder, extract, or dark chocolate bar. The health benefits associated with such products include improved blood flow,blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
More than triple the acceptable levels of cadmium were found in two products, each of which delivered a total amount of cadmium above the tolerable limit for certain people. Cadmium is a probable carcinogen, can cause kidney toxicity and softening of bones, and may affect fetal development.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not established limits on cadmium in supplements and foods, Canada limits daily cadmium exposure from natural health products to approximately 3 to 6 mcg, depending on body weight. The State of California requires a warning label on products with more than 4.1 mcg. The contaminated products contained 23.7 mcg and 13.3 mcg of cadmium per serving. These levels were confirmed in a second laboratory blinded to the identities of the products.
ConsumerLab.com found over 100 milligrams of flavanols in a daily serving of some of the products, while others contained just 3 or 4 milligrams, and one had just 0.03 milligrams—despite claiming to be "a highly concentrated extract" which "should not be confused with less potent powdered herbs or extracts." For potential therapeutic effect, a daily dose of 50 mg to 200 mg of flavanols is generally suggested.
Tests also revealed that the caffeine content in cocoas and chocolates varies widely, with a daily serving of some providing as much as in 1 ½ cups of coffee while others provided almost none.
Test results and comparisons for the products selected by ConsumerLab.com for testing, as well as for one product which passed the same testing through ConsumerLab.com's voluntary Quality Certification Program, are provided in a new report online. The report, which includes information about the uses, dosage, and potential side-effects of cocoa products, covers the following products:
- Cacao by Advanced Physician Formulas
- Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate
- Navitas Naturals Cacao Powder
- NOW Certified Organic Cocoa Powder
- NuNaturals Pure Liquid Cocoa Bean Extract
- Reserveage CocoaWell
- Source Naturals ChocoLift
- Swanson Full Spectrum Cacao