Among numerous studies of the health benefits of chocolate, special attention has focused on the island Kuna, an indigenous population of Panama, who are said to drink home-grown chocolate exclusively and thus to enjoy excellent cardiovascular health. Anthropological research among the Kuna calls these claims into question. The Kuna consume a wide variety of homemade and commercial drinks, including store-bought cocoa. They do make heavy use of cacao beans, especially in curing and other ritual, but little comes from their own farms. Low blood-pressure levels and a low incidence of cardiovascular disease, also characteristic of other traditional populations, are likely due more to a low-fat diet and heavy physical labor than to consumption of chocolate. The erroneous results from the Kuna illustrate the dangers inherent in the search for miracle dietary cures.
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Research Article| February 01 2012
Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered
james howe, a member of the Anthropology faculty at mit, is the author of three books on the culture and history of the Kuna of Panama. The most recent, Chiefs, Scribes, and Ethnographers (University of Texas Press, 2009), examines Kuna engagement with literacy and anthropology over the course of the twentieth century, in particular, the efforts of Kuna chiefs and their secretaries to write their own ethnography. He is currently working on a photographic study of feasting, drinking, and dancing in village celebrations of female puberty.
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Gastronomica (2012) 12 (1): 43–52.
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james howe; Chocolate and Cardiovascular Health: The Kuna Case Reconsidered. Gastronomica 1 February 2012; 12 (1): 43–52. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/GFC.2012.12.1.43
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