May 2, 2012

A Chocolate a Day Keeps the Doctors Away?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Chocolate has been a part of the human diet for at least 4,000 years! More than 10 pounds of chocolate is consumed annually by the typical American. Now, recent research shows that chocolate is a great source of myriad substances that could have important health benefits.

Chocolate contains "flavanols," a compound that appears to play a variety of bodily roles related to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Many large-scale human studies have documented a statistical correlation between flavanol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease. Animal studies suggest that this relationship may be due to the physiologic effects that flavanols have on chronic inflammation, blood vessel health, and circulating lipid levels. However, few controlled human intervention studies have been conducted to test the direct effect of chocolate consumption on these variables.

The study helps determine in particular the benefits in dark chocolate. It contains high levels of flavanols, more so than milk chocolate, that may protect against the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, improving blood lipid levels, and blood flow.

The study involved 21 participants randomly chosen to consume a daily serving of either dark chocolate (70% cocoa), that had been overheated or "bloomed," or white chocolate (0% cocoa) for 15 days. Blood pressure, circulating lipid profiles, forearm skin blood flow, and blood glucose levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.

When compared to participants assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming either form of dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, the "bad" form) levels coupled with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the "good" form).

Researchers believe that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving glucose levels and lipid profiles. However, they mentioned that even though dark chocolate can benefit one´s health, it must be consumed in moderation because it can easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories. "We had great compliance with our study subjects because everybody wanted to eat chocolate. We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50 grams a day," authors of the study were quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology