The Health Benefits of Chocolate Part 1
There are research findings that suggest the health benefits of cocoa in fighting against cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Cocoa beans are rich in the antioxidant called flavonols. Many research conducted in different parts of the world show that flavonols possess many healthy properties.
There are 18 studies that focused on chocolates or cocoa and the effects this product has on heart disease, blood pressure, cancer, nerve disorders, etc. These studies were presented at an annual meeting by the American Chemical Society in San Diego.
Most are considered as preliminary studies since they were not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal. Some studies also have a small scope with few participants. Others are actually animal studies, so the results may not necessarily apply to humans.
Many observational studies that have been conducted show the big potential of dark chocolates or cocoa in benefitting the health of consumers. The recent small studies all contribute to the investigation of the mechanism as to how chocolate or cocoa benefit cardiovascular health.
Health Benefits Mechanism of Chocolates Explained
Protects against inflammation
It is presumed that cocoa or dark chocolates help reduce vascular inflammation. Thanks to flavonoids, addressing the inflammation problem leads to a lower incidence of stroke and heart attack.
In a mice study, researchers added cocoa to the high-fat diet of obese mice which slowed down the weight gain of the test mice.
Prior to the change in diet, the mice had high body fat, serum insulin and fasting blood glucose levels. The mice also possessed the markers of systemic inflammation.
After taking the diet with cocoa, the markers of systemic inflammation of the test mice went down to normal or to a similar level as of lean mice.
Prevents Oxidative Stress
A study in Italy involved 40 people and half of them were smokers. At random, the participants were assigned to eat dark chocolate or milk chocolate.
Oxidative stress can lead to clot formation in smokers and eating dark chocolate was found to help deter oxidative stress.
The capability of dark chocolate to prevent oxidative stress and other resulting disease, including cancer, in smokers needs further study.
While the results of this small study show the antioxidant effects of dark chocolate in reducing health risks in smokers, it is not definitive because of certain limitations. People, especially smokers, should not eat dark chocolate as a substitute for having healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating healthy and exercising.
Photo credits: Dark Chocolate by Lee McCoy via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)