The consumption of high-cacao-content chocolate has been associated with positive health benefits ascribed to flavonol antioxidants derived from the ground, fermented cocoa seeds of Theobroma cacao. However, flavonols impart a bitter, astringent flavor to foodstuffs, frequently masked in chocolates and confections by aggressive processing and adulteration with other flavors. Recent reports have implied that not all varieties of dark chocolate are created equally, and significant caveats exist regarding its potential health benefits. It is perhaps not surprising that extensive processing, dilution, and the addition of flavor modifiers may improve the palatability of chocolate, but could have negative nutritional and clinical benefits. This article examines the chemical composition of chocolate and the clinical data associated with the consumption of flavonoid-rich cocoa. We review the steps in chocolate manufacturing that directly affect the antioxidant levels in chocolate products, and the caveats associated with claims of health benefits from the consumption of dark chocolate.

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