Macro- And Microelemental Composition and Toxicity of Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder in Sprague-Dawley Rats

J Toxicol. 2016;2016:4783829. doi: 10.1155/2016/4783829. Epub 2016 Aug 17.


Unsweetened natural cocoa powder (UNCP) is a pulverized high-grade powder of compressed solid blocks which remains after extraction. Little scientific data is available concerning its safety despite the presence of potential toxic elements. Elemental composition in UNCP was analyzed with ED-XRF spectroscopy. Single oral high dose toxicity study was conducted on adult male Sprague-Dawley rats (150 g) by the limit test method. One group received water and the test group 2000 mg/kg UNCP. All animals were observed for 14 days and then euthanized for haematological, biochemical, and histopathological examinations. Thirty-eight (38) elements were found in UNCP. There was an increase in HDL cholesterol (p < 0.05), reduction in LDL cholesterol (p > 0.05), alkaline phosphatase (p < 0.05), and creatinine levels, and slight increase in urea levels (p > 0.05). Haematological changes were not significant. Histopathological analysis showed no toxic effect on the heart, liver, kidney, lungs, testis, and spleen. Intestinal erosion was observed in the test group. UNCP appears to be relatively safe when taken as a single oral high dose of 2000 mg/kg b.w.t. in rats. Caution should however be exercised at high doses due to the high elemental content of copper and high possibility of intestinal lining erosion.