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.

This content is only available via PDF.