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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Benefits of Chocolate, Part 2

Published January 4, 2016 10:23 AM by Lindsey Nolen

In other research, scientists have found that eating up to two bars of chocolate a day can also help prevent stroke. In a study at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, researchers analyzed the snacking habits of 21,000 people older than 12 and found that the odds of experiencing a stroke fell by 23% in patients who consumed up to 100 g of chocolate—the equivalent of about two classic Hershey's bars—each day in any form.

Cacao, the primary ingredient in chocolate, is the source of its stroke-preventing capability. This component of chocolate contains a reasonable amount of magnesium, which is a crucial macro mineral necessary for optimal health. This means at least 100 mg of magnesium is required per day to remain health by assisting in keeping blood pressure normal, cholesterol balanced and to naturally keep blood from thickening. Researchers in the Cochrane Hypertension Group found that flavanol-rich chocolate and cocoa products may have a small but statistically significant effect on lowering blood pressure by 2 mm Hg to 3 mm Hg in the short term (1).

Furthermore, Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet found that study subjects who ate the most chocolate, and therefore cacao, had a decreased report of stroke. Thus, experts believe that the more cacao in a chocolate product (30% in milk chocolate to 90% in dark chocolate), the more health benefits the chocolate product will deliver.

In addition, data from the American Academy of Neurology suggests that chocolate consumption is associated with an acute change in cerebral vasomotor reactivity, independent of metabolic and hemodynamic parameters. It also shows that this acute effect may contribute to the observed relationship between long-term chocolate consumption and stroke risk (2).

Cosmetic Uses
Aside from medical responses to chocolate ingestion, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Nutrition (3) found that cocoa flavanol supplementation reduces wrinkles and has a positive effect on the appearance of skin in older women. Korean women between the ages of 43 and 86 with visible facial wrinkles were recruited to participate in this double-blind, randomized and controlled trial.

During the study, the cocoa consuming group took a supplement containing 320 mg of cocoa flavanols, and the control group received a calorie-matched placebo. After 24 weeks, the women in the group consuming cocoa flavanols had a reduced appearance of facial wrinkles and improvements in their skin’s elasticity. Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that cocoa flavanol supplementation may contribute to the prevention of the progression of photoaging.

Chocolate has also been suggested to reduce wrinkles through less collagen breakdown as a result of cocoa’s ability to reduce stress hormones. Flavanols also help by protecting skin from UV damage, fighting free radicals, increasing blood flow, and even by improving skin hydration and thickness.

Consume Carefully
While the medical and cosmetic benefits of chocolate are evident, it is still not recommended that people consume high amounts of chocolate. Researchers do not recommend that people start eating several chocolate bars a week to derive these benefits, for chocolate also possesses some unhealthy elements.

Regular chocolate bars can contain a fair amount of saturated fat and sugar—both of which can lead to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and hypertension. Although there is no established serving size to guarantee health benefits, chocolate consumers should always choose chocolate with no extra ingredients or limited extra ingredients, to avoid unnecessary fat and calories.

“Ideally you want to get dark chocolate that is 85% to 90% cacao,” explains Jamie Logie, author of the book Taking Back Your Health. “But [this] can be an acquired taste. Starting with 70% helps you build up to that, and after a while you will learn to love the deep, rich, natural flavor and won't want to touch a candy bar again!”

 

References:

1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008893.pub2/abstract

2. http://www.neurology.org/content/80/12/1173.2.full

3. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/11/18/jn.115.217711.abstract

 

posted by Lindsey Nolen

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