Chocolate is one of those foods that can be incredibly good for your health and bad for you at the same time. Eating too much chocolate can have both health benefits and side effects, especially on the stomach and the nervous and cardiovascular systems. The side effects are temporary and cease once consumption is discontinued. Still, some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of certain compounds in chocolate, which makes them more likely to experience side effects such as stomach upset, insomnia, palpitations or extrasystoles.
Why is chocolate bad for you? Chocolate is delicious and full of wonderful benefits for many people, but not for everyone. Some people are more sensitive to various compounds in chocolate, like caffeine and, in their case, chocolate is bad for their health. And although the side effects don’t cancel the benefits, they may outweigh them, making chocolate bad for some people while good for others. This is true for other foods like pineapple, peppers, turmeric or ginger, all of which hold both benefits and side effects (read more about the side effects of turmeric and the side effects of ginger). With this in mind, here are 7 possible side effects of eating chocolate:
1) Worsens gastritis. Chocolate irritates the stomach lining causing symptoms such as stomach upset, abdominal pain and other side effects that may derive from the stomach upset such as a general feeling of unwell, heartburn, palpitations, sweating, nausea etc. For gastritis sufferers whose stomach lining is already irritated by gastric juices, eating chocolate adds to the irritation and can worsen the condition. Dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa content causes the worst inflammation of the stomach lining. Experts recommend to avoid eating chocolate in any form if you currently have or are trying to recover from gastritis or peptic ulcer.
2) Bad for acid reflux. Because of its irritating effect on the stomach lining, chocolate encourages the escape of gastric juices into the esophagus and exacerbates gastroesophageal reflux symptoms. The gastric juices irritate and cause inflammation of the esophagus which leads to symptoms such as heartburn, a strong burning sensation in the chest. Profuse sweating, nausea, feeling sick to the stomach, palpitations and other symptoms may occur, depending on how severe the acid reflux is.
3) Causes insomnia, agitation, headaches, trembling. Chocolate is food for the brain. Antioxidants, dietary minerals, vitamins, fatty acids and other elements with nutritional value in chocolate nourish the brain and the nervous system and, together with other natural chemicals, alter brain chemistry, regulating mood and various brain functions (read more about the benefits of eating chocolate). Caffeine and theophylline are one of these special compounds in chocolate with a direct and positive action on the nervous system. But while they make us more alert by stimulating wakefulness, they can also have side effects.
For example, eating chocolate at night or simply too much chocolate during the day can cause insomnia and agitation as a result of its caffeine content. The theophylline in chocolate also stimulates the central nervous system and the cardiovascular system and may cause side effects such as irritability, headaches, nausea, lightheadedness and especially insomnia.
4) Chocolate causes extrasystoles. Certain elements in chocolate that alter brain chemistry have both benefits and side effects. For example, caffeine and theophylline both have effects on the cardiovascular system and can cause extrasystoles, a form of arrhythmia characterized as a skipped heartbeat or a premature heartbeat. In most cases, extrasystoles are a harmless condition and are brought on by factors such as stress, drinking coffee, green tea or fizzy drinks, eating cocoa-rich chocolate etc.
5) Causes heart palpitations. Eating too much chocolate, especially if it’s rich in cocoa, can lead to heart palpitations, irregular, fast heartbeats. Some people also report experiencing profuse sweating, lightheadedness, shaking and a sort of weakness coming from the chest along with (or as a result of) the palpitations.
6) Arrhythmia. Chocolate, especially with a high content of cocoa, stimulates both the cardiovascular and the nervous system and can cause cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rate. Caffeine, theophylline and theobromine are the three elements in chocolate that cause arrhythmia. In addition to altering normal heart rhythm, they can also lead to tremors, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, headaches etc.
7) Acne. For some people, eating chocolate causes acne or can worsen the existing condition. However, different studies pinpoint different triggers so researchers cannot say with certainty if it’s the cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk, sugar or other elements like soy (known for its estrogenic effects) that are responsible for such an effect.
Conclusion. The reason why chocolate is bad for you has to do with how you respond to the different elements in its composition. It’s an individual response, which explains why it’s so good for some people, but bad for others. Either way, what matters is if chocolate is good or bad for you, not others. If you experience side effects after eating it, then it’s bad for your health and maybe you should consider other foods. Because the fact that it’s good for others won’t make it good for you too.