Here is the final version of the chocolate essay. You can also download it as a pdf document.
“Chocolate is a healthy food.” Discuss.
Since Spanish explorers brought back chocolate from the new world, chocolate consumption has become a worldwide phenomenon. At first, chocolate, a derivative of the cacao bean, was consumed as a drink, only later achieving mass popularity in tablet or bar form. However, chocolate’s inherent popularity does not equate to it possessing healthy properties, as suggested by the title. The realities of chocolate are more down to earth; a number of these realities will be addressed in this essay. Chocolate has chemical properties that can influence mood and there is possible evidence for some positive impacts of chocolate on cardiovascular health. Yet, such positive attributes are counterbalanced somewhat by the argument that, in some instances, chocolate can be viewed as a drug rather than a food. Moreover, there is the possibility of some correlation between over-consumption of chocolate and obesity. Thus, it will be argued that despite chocolate’s positive effect in some cases on mood and the cardiovascular system it has also been linked to addiction and obesity.
Consumption of chocolate is something that many enjoy, and there is evidence (Parker, Parker, & Brotchie, 2006) that high carbohydrate foods such as chocolate do have a ‘feel good’ effect. Moreover, Scholey and Owen (2013) in a systematic review of the literature in the field point to several studies, such as Macht and Dettmer (2006) and Macht and Mueller (2007), which appear to confirm this effect. Yet, as Parker, Parker and Brotchie (2006, p. 150) note, the mood effects of chocolate "are as ephemeral as holding a chocolate in one’s mouth". In addition, mood is something that is difficult to isolate and quantify, and aside from the study by Macht and Dettmer (2006) there appears to be little research on any longer term mood affecting influences of chocolate. Another point is raised by Macht and Dettmer (2006), whose study found that positive responses to chocolate correlated more with anticipation and temporary sensory pleasure, whereas guilt was also a statistically significant factor for many, for whom the ‘feel-good’ effect would be minimalised. As these authors stress, “temporal tracking of [both] positive and negative emotions” (p.335) before and after consuming chocolate in future studies could help in further understanding the ‘feel good’ effect and more negative emotions.
Another possible positive influence of chocolate is upon cardiovascular health. Chocolate, processed accordingly, can be a provider of significant quantities of heart-friendly flavanols (Hannum, Schmitz, & Keen, 2002) which help in delaying blood clotting and reducing inflammation (Schramm et al., 2001). Such attributes of flavanols in chocolate need to be considered in the context of chocolate’s other components – approximately 30% fat, 61% carbohydrate, 6% protein and 3% liquid and minerals (Hannum, Schmitz, & Keen, 2002). The key to maximising the benefits of flavanols in chocolate appears to lie in the level of fats present. Cocoa, which is simply chocolate minus the fat, is the most obvious candidate for maximising heart health, but as Hannum, Schmitz and Keen (2002) note, most cocoa products are made through an alkali process which destroys many flavanols. Optimal maximisation of the flavanols involves such compounds being present in cocoa and chocolate products at levels where they are biologically active (Ariefdjohan & Savaiano, 2005).
The biological makeup of chocolate is also relevant in determining whether chocolate is better viewed as a food or a drug, but the boundaries between indulgence and addictive behaviour are unclear. Chocolate contains some biologically active elements including methylxanthines, and cannabinoid-like unsaturated fatty acids (Bruinsma & Taren, 1999) which could represent a neurochemical dependency potential for chocolate, yet are present in exceedingly small amounts. Interestingly, and linked to chocolate and mood, Macdiarmid and Hetherington (1995) claim their study found that “self-identified chocolate ‘addicts’” reported a negative correlation between chocolate consumption and mood. This is perhaps indicative of addictive or compulsive type behaviour. However, as Bruinsma and Taren (1999) note, eating chocolate can represent a sensory reward based, luxurious indulgence, based around texture, aroma and flavour anticipation, rather than a neurochemically induced craving. Yet, it has been argued that chocolate is sometimes used as a form of self-medication, particularly in relation to magnesium deficiency. A study by Pennington (2000 in Steinberg, Bearden, & Keen 2003) noted that women do not generally meet US guidelines for trace elements, including magnesium. This correlates with earlier studies by Abraham and Lubran (1981), who found a high correlation between magnesium deficiency and nervous tension in women. Thus, tension-related chocolate cravings could be a biological entity fuelled by magnesium deficiency. Overall, however, it would appear that the proportion of people using chocolate as a drug rather than a food based sensory indulgence is small, though further research might prove enlightening.
A final point to consider in relation to chocolate is the perception that chocolate is linked to obesity. A person is defined as being obese when their Body Mass Index is greater than 30. The literature on chocolate and obesity has clearly demonstrated that there are no specific correlations between the two variables (Beckett, 2008; Lambert, 2009). This is typified by the findings of Mellor (2013), who found that, over a period of eight weeks of eating 45 grams of chocolate per day, a group of adults demonstrated no significant weight increase. As Lambert (2009) notes, chocolate consumption alone is not likely to cause obesity, unless large amounts of other calorie dense foods are consumed and this calorie dense intake is greater than needed for bodily function, bearing in mind levels of activity. The stereotypical ‘chocoholic’ seems more likely to consume many other sweet foods and be less likely to take exercise than other people, so chocolate consumption is only one possible variable when considering the causes of obesity.
Obesity and chocolate consumption seemingly have no proven correlations. Yet, in this essay, many chocolate focused arguments have been presented, including the transient effect of chocolate on mood and the fact that it is as likely to create feelings of guilt as of well-being. Another possible positive dimension to chocolate is a correlation with cardiovascular health. Yet the potential benefits of flavanols in chocolate are currently offset by the high fat/carbohydrate content of most forms of chocolate. Whether chocolate is a food or a drug is also unclear. The literature outlines the chemical properties of chocolate which could help explain some addictive type behaviour, particularly in regards to nervous tension in women, but there is also a strong research focus on chocolate as a sensory-based indulgence. It can therefore be said that chocolate is not a healthy food, but can be enjoyed as part of a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle.
(Word count: 1087. This is within 10% of the word limit, which is usually acceptable. Check this with your lecturer if you are in any doubt.)
Abraham, G. E., & Lubran, M. M. (1981). Serum and red cell magnesium levels in patients with premenstrual tension. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 34(11), 2364-2366. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/34/11/2364.short
Ariefdjohan, M. W., & Savaiano, D. A. (2005). Chocolate and cardiovascular health: Is it too good to be true? Nutrition Reviews, 63(12), 427-430. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2005.tb00118.x
Beckett, S. T. (2000). The science of chocolate. Cambridge, UK: Royal Society of Chemistry.
Bruinsma, K., & Taren, D. L. (1999). Chocolate: Food or drug? Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(10), 1249-12. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(99)00307-7
Hannum, S. M., Schmitz, H. H., & Keen, C. L. (2002). Chocolate: A heart-healthy food? Show me the science! Nutrition Today, 37(3), 103-109. Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/Abstract/2002/05000/Chocolate__A_Heart_healthy_Food__Show_Me_the.4.aspx
Lambert, J. P. (2009). Nutrition and health aspects of chocolate. In S. Beckett (Ed.), Industrial chocolate manufacture and use, (4th ed., pp. 623-635). London: Wiley Blackwell. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781444301588.ch27/pdf
Macht, M., & Dettmer, D. (2006). Everyday mood and emotions after eating a chocolate bar or an apple. Appetite, 46(3), 332-336. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2006.01.014
Macht, M., & Mueller, J. (2007). Immediate effects of chocolate on experimentally induced mood states. Appetite, 49(3), 667-674. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2007.05.004
Macdiarmid, J. I., & Hetherington, M. M. (1995). Mood modulation by food: An exploration of affect and cravings in ‘chocolate addicts’. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 34(1), 129-138. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8260.1995.tb01445.x
Mellor, D. D. (2013). The effects of polyphenol rich chocolate on cardiovascular risk and glycaemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus (Doctoral dissertation, University of Hull, UK). Retrieved from https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:7109
Parker, G., Parker, I., & Brotchie, H. (2006). Mood state effects of chocolate. Journal of Affective Disorders, 92(2), 149-159. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2006.02.007
Scholey, A., & Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews, 71(10), 665-681. doi:10.1111/nure.12065
Schramm, D. D., Wang, J. F., Holt, R. R., Ensunsa, J. L., Gonsalves, J. L., Lazarus, S. A., Schmitz, H. H., German, J. Bruce, & Keen, C. L. (2001). Chocolate procyanidins decrease the leukotriene-prostacyclin ratio in humans and human aortic endothelial cells. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73(1), 36-40. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/73/1/36.full
Steinberg, F. M., Bearden, M. M., & Keen, C. L. (2003). Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: Implications for cardiovascular health. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 103(2), 215-223. doi: 10.1053/jada.2003.50028
Write a first draft
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting. Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- A topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- Supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- Evidence. Most of the time, your point should be supported by some form of evidence from your reading, or by an example drawn from the subject area.
- Analysis. Don’t just leave the evidence hanging there - analyse and interpret it! Comment on the implication/significance/impact and finish off the paragraph with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence.
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
See The Learning Centre guide Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early - the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft and edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end (especially not in a single sitting). Begin with what you are ready to write - a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
See The Learning Centre guides to Introducing quotations and paraphrasesandTransition signals