Chocolate and the management of prostate cancer


We know of absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the use of chocolate (medicinally or otherwise) has any specific impact on the risk for, the prevention of, or the long-term outcome of treatment for prostate cancer. However, there is a perfectly wonderful article in this week’s issue of The Lancet entitled “Centuries of seeking chocolate’s medicinal benefits,” and it makes a great read — while simultaneously providing insights into our passionate desire to find ways to manage our health through the use of products we really like to eat and drink!

The bottom line?

For a very high proportion of the word’s population, when one isn’t feeling that great, a small piece of fine chocolate, or a mug of a chocolate drink, can offer a form of therapy unrivaled by even some of the most effective drugs known to man! Pleasure alone is a great form of medicine.

9 Responses

  1. Again thanks for publishing an interesting piece.

    Actually, chocolate may have a significant effect, though that would be a hypothesis at this point. Here’s a line of thought that got some emphasis at this year’s meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, though it is hardly new: Successive rounds of mutations seem to drive the cancer aggressiveness sequence, from normal cells, to pre-cancerous cells, to cancer cells, to invasive and more aggressive cancer cells, to metastatic cells, and to to cells that resist therapy. Mutations often are the result of damage to cellular DNA. Oxidants (free radicals) tend to damage DNA. Antioxidants counter free fadicals, thereby reducing damage to DNA. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has a high cocoa content, and cocoa is a powerful antioxidant. Therefore, it is reasonable to suppose that chocolate helps slow the progression of aggressiveness in cancer cells. Besides that, it tastes good! (Throw in some red wine here!)

    Seriously, that’s one of the reasons I consume two squares of 70% cocoa content dark chocolate daily.

    I just did a PubMed check (www.pubmed.gov) for ” cancer AND cocoa ” (without the quotation marks) and came up with 99 hits. I added ” AND prostate cancer ” to the search string and got 7 hits. The most recent, from China, involved white cocoa tea and cell line/mouse research. I attended the five day annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research this year as part of its Scientist↔Survivor Program, so I checked to see if there were any abstracts on cocoa in the Proceedings book. Sure enough, there was one, again on white cocoa tea, involving the same research group from China. It’s worth noting that white tea itself may have some anti-cancer properties.

    The research is obviously quite preliminary, but cocoa looks like an agent with a very high therapeutic index: minimal if any harm in moderation, and possible substantial benefit.

    Thanks again for this enjoyable news!

  2. It is indeed a delightful piece. I particularly liked this bit from The Manner of Making Coffee, Tea and Chocolate (1685):

    The “buttery parts” of the cacao tend to “fatten” people because the “hot ingredients” of medicinal chocolate serve as a type of pipe or conduit … and make it pass by the liver, and the other parts till they arrive at the fleshy parts, where finding a substance which is like and comfortable to them … [they] convert themselves into the substance of the subject [whereby] they augment and fatten it.

    How true!

    I was also reminded of the claims for tobacco when it was first introduced to Europe. Unfortunately I no longer have the book I read on the history of tobacco, but there were some pretty strong claims there about it’s benefits.

    I think I may have to add this link to my Cure du Jour entry.

  3. I stopped eating all chocolate after reading this research report

    A study conducted in Utah between 1983 and 1986, and published in 1993, showed a possible association between theobromine and an increased risk of suffering from prostate cancer in older men.

    Compared with men with very low levels of theobromine intake, older men consuming 11 to 20 and over 20 mg of theobromine per day were at increased risk of prostate cancer (odds ratio [OR] for all tumors = 2.06, 95 percent confidence interval [CI]=1.33-3.20, and OR=1.47, CI=0.99-2.19, respectively; OR for aggressive tumors = 1.90, CI=0.90-3.97, and OR=1.74, CI=0.91-3.32, respectively). We present biological mechanisms for a possible association between prostate cancer and theobromine. This finding needs further exploration in studies with a wider range of theobromine exposures and more men with aggressive tumors.

  4. This must be something unique to Utah. I know lots of older men who eat chocolate regularly who have no sign of prostate cancer! But I live a long way from Utah.

  5. Utah was where the academics were located, not where the respondents were.

  6. Actually, if you look at the paper, it was where the respondents were too.

  7. There is no reason why the population of Utah is unique. Theobromine definitely increases the risk of prostate cancer occurring or recurring.

  8. I love it! … I am sure chocolate is the alternative therapy of choice. My PSA after being level for 8 months has plummeted with daily doses of chocolate! Mind you, the other medicine (bicalutamide) may be working better too.

  9. Hmmm … Maybe we need a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of chocolate with and without bicalutamide … Does anyone have any idea what the correct daily dose of chocolate might need to be? Perhaps 2 oz of Bourneville Dark or similar twice a day?

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