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Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate is healthy

Yes we know that sounds ridiculous, but as consumers of vast amount of chocolate, we are well placed to judge. We would expect you to put no more faith in that statement coming from a chocolate company, than believing that ice cream was good for you coming from an ice cream man. So it is to leading scientific research that our team at Melt has turned to. In that research, you will also find the startling claim that chocolate will make you slim.

But what if chocolate not only makes you slim but it also makes you smart. You will argue that we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous. But there is a direct correlation between consumption of dark chocolate and Nobel prize winners. (If your smart you will probably tell us that that's because smart people just love chocolate. We would of course agree with you.)

If the sciencists are saying that chocolate makes you slim, smart and you live longer because of all those anti-oxidants, what is there not to like about it. Even if all this science proves to be like hocus locus and completely wrong, like in most other cases, at least you will have enjoyed the experience of finding out. 

We think chocolate is the perfect food. One of the reasons we are so fanatical about chocolate is the health benefits that it brings. We have sourced scientific papers and articles from around the world to support these statements. The following is the original research or leading articles from established magazines about the health benefits of chocolate.

Study Touts Cocoa For Weight Loss

Researchers have identified the specific ingredient in chocolate that may be most responsible for its newly recognized weight loss and anti-diabetes benefits. The announcement was made today in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,

Scientists have known for some time that cocoa leads the pack when it comes to flavanol-rich foods, with the potential to boost heart health, lower blood sugar, and decrease body fat. What they haven’t known is which flavanols are responsible for which health benefits.

In this study, researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute set out to test several groups of cocoa compounds to see which were most effective for preventing weight gain and obesity. The winners: a group of compounds called oligomeric procyanidins (PCs). The researchers also found that oligomeric PCs or OPCs helped regulate blood glucose levels, suggesting the compounds might prove useful in treating diabetes.

Said lead researcher Andrew P. Neilson: “Oligomeric PCs appear to possess the greatest antiobesity and antidiabetic bioactivities of the flavanols in cocoa, particularly at the low doses employed for the present study.”

Flavanols are big news these days; researchers announced that a flavanol found in strawberries and other fruits and vegetables may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and age-related memory loss.

And no doubt this isn’t the first time you’ve heard about all the health benefits of dark chocolate – in the past few years studies have demonstrated that eating a small quantity of dark chocolate regularly can improve heart health, boost brain function, and even help prevent cancer. But this is the first time scientists have identified this specific group of compounds, oligomeric PCs, as being the most actively beneficial for weight loss.

The way they did it was this. Mice were separated into groups and fed a high-fat diet augmented with a variety of supplements for 12 weeks. One group of mice received a cocoa flavanol extract, while other groups received monomeric, oligomeric, or polymeric procyanidins (PCs).

When the mice were compared, it was clear that those fed oligomeric PCs had the lowest fat mass, lowest body weight, and were least likely to develop impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance – all this despite eating a high-fat diet.

Of course, the same caveat applies as always; this is a mouse study, meaning that the results can’t be applied directly to humans until further testing confirms that the benefits translate to us.

That said, researchers have been looking into the potential benefits of oligomeric PCs – also known as procyanidolic oligomers or PCOs – for some time. Double-blind clinical research has shown they have the ability to strengthen capillaries, and a 2003 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that oligomeric PCs, along with other cocoa flavanols, were anti-inflammatory and inhibited platelet function to reduce blood clotting.

But there is still plenty of research to be done to isolate exactly which compounds in cocoa are responsible for its remarkable healthful properties.

Why does this matter? Because chocolate, as we all know, doesn’t just contain cocoa, there”s plenty of sugar and fat in the mix, too. And sugar and fat are not what you want to be eating if you’re overweight or diabetic. By isolating the flavonones most responsible for chocolate’s health benefits, science may be able to offer the antioxidants in a concentrated, purified form.

Of course, that woudn’t be nearly as much fun.

Dark chocolate is good for you!

A report by Katherine Harmon Courage of a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Dallas, Texas, in March 2014 stated that dark chocolate is good for you, thanks to the microbes that live in our gut. These microbes create anti-inflammatory compounds that have been linked to cardiovascular and other benefits from eating dark chocolate. New research suggests that beneficial bacteria that are present toward the end of our digestive tract ferment both the antioxidants and the fibre in cocoa.

Daily consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate or cocoa lowered blood pressure by an average of two to three points. 

Dark Chocolate recommended for anti-aging

Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables as part of your anti-aging diet. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones. 

http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm October 2014

Why You Should Eat Chocolate

Superfoods don't just come from your supermarket's produce aisle. In fact those chocolate candy bars next to the gummy bears now qualify. Study after study proves that dark chocolate—sweet, rich, and delicious—is good for more than curing a broken heart. 

The secret behind its powerful punch is cacao, also the source of the sweet's distinct taste. Packed with healthy chemicals like flavonoids and theobromine, this little bean is a disease-killing bullet. The only problem? Cacao on its own is bitter, chalky, nasty stuff. 

Enter milk, sugar, and butter—good for your taste buds, not always good for your health. Besides adding calories, these can dilute the benefits of cacao. So snack smart: Stick to healthy chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao (or cocoa, which is cacao in its roasted, ground form). As long as the content is that high, says Mary Engler, Ph.D., a professor of physiological nursing at the University of California at San Francisco, you can reap the benefits from eating only small amounts. Because of its high fat and sugar content, limit yourself to 7 ounces, or about four dark chocolate bars, a week. 

Why is Dark Chocolate Healthy? From “About Health” website

Chocolate is made from plants, which means it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables as part of your anti-aging diet. These benefits are from flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from aging caused by free radicals, which can cause damage that leads to heart disease. Dark chocolate contains a large number of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the number found in strawberries). Flavonoids also help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide, and balance certain hormones in the body. 

Chocolate is good for the skin and lowers the risk of cancer - Dark Chocolate is good for the skin!

Recent research carried out by scientists at the European Dermatology Clinic in London suggests that the flavanols, naturally occurring antioxidants found in dark chocolate, may help prevent wrinkles caused by the sun and might lower the risk of skin cancer as well. 

"Our study revealed, for the first time, that high-flavanol chocolate protects the skin from harmful UV effects. The main mechanism is likely to be the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity of cocoa flavanols," said the researchers.

Full article: Daily Telegraph, 5th November 2009.

Chocolate 'cuts risk of dying in heart attack survivors'

Heart attack survivors who eat chocolate twice or more a week can cut their risk of dying from heart disease, a new study suggests. 

Researchers found that those who regularly indulged were up to three times less likely to die from the disease than those who never ate chocolate. Even eating chocolate less often can help to protect the heart, researchers have found. 

Previous studies have suggested that cocoa could help to lower blood pressure and to improve the flow of flow around the body. Dr Kenneth Mukamal, from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston, who co-authored the study, said the findings were specific to chocolate. Antioxidants in cocoa were “a likely candidate” to explain the potentially live-saving properties, he added. Antioxidants are thought to play a role in the ageing process and previous studies have suggested that they could help to protect against both heart disease and cancer. 

The researchers found that there was a link between fatal heart attacks and the amount of chocolate eaten, even after other factors such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption, were taken into account. “Our findings support increasing evidence that chocolate is a rich source of beneficial bioactive compounds,” the researchers concluded, although they called for clinical trials to prove their results. 

Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, published: 14 Aug 2009. 

For full article: 

Introducing the latest superfood... chocolate

Chocolate: it's good for you. According to recent research from US scientists, chocolate has joined the unpronounceable trio of goji berries, spirulina and acai berries on the list of superfoods that could prolong your life. It seems those chocoholics we've been tutting disapprovingly at for years were on to a good thing all along.

Chang Lee, the chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University in the US has been studying the healthy properties of cocoa for years. Lee and his team found that cocoa has nearly twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and up to three times as many as green tea. These results surprised even the team. "If I had made a prediction before conducting the tests, I would have picked green tea as having the most antioxidant activity." said Lee. "When we compared one serving of each beverage, the cocoa turned out to be the highest in antioxidant activity, and that was surprising to me."

The healthy properties of antioxidants are still a topic for hot debate in the scientific community, but there is considerable laboratory evidence from chemical, cell culture and animal studies showing that antioxidants may slow down or even prevent the development of cancer. Other studies have indicated benefits in heart disease and other age-related conditions. Of antioxidants, the "best" performer seems to be polyphenols - which are also the least researched. Cocoa contains polyphenols, which are also found in grapes, berries and wine - as well as catechins and epicatechins - found in green tea.

But if this seems all a bit too good to be true, then yes, there is a catch. Before you rush out to the newsagent for a bar of Dairy Milk, remember this is cocoa they are talking about, not milk chocolate. …... However "chocolate is also a good source of iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Dark, more cocoa rich, chocolate contains more iron than white chocolate."

So, the answer is to tuck into a bar with a high cocoa content - and only in moderation. 

Kate Carter, Guardian, 
Wednesday 7th March 2007.

Extracts from an article in American Chronicle 30th May 2007.

Chocolate contains 4 essential ingredients that make it one of the best foods for health

1. Magnesium: For the heart to be at its peak performance, it requires two minerals more than any other, magnesium and potassium. Cacao, of course, is a fantastic food source of heart-supporting magnesium. 

2. Antioxidants: According to research, cacao beans are super-rich in antioxidant flavonols. Cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants of any food. 

3. Phenylethylamine (PEA): PEA is a chemical in cacao that increases the activity of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in parts of the brain that control our ability to pay attention and stay alert. 

4. Anti-Depressant Properties of Cacao: Cacao is also a great source of serotonin, dopamine, and phenylethylamine, three well-studied neurotransmitters, which help alleviate depression. Cacao also contains anandamide which delivers blissful feelings and B vitamins, which are associated with brain health. Cacao is a natural prozac! 

Good for the memory Flavanoids, that are found in raw cacao beans, can help boost brain power and memory. The beneficial brain effects appear to stem from flavanoids' impact on the blood system. In essence, the chemicals stimulate an increase of blood flow to the brain. But experts caution that chocolate usually loses its flavanoids during processing. So if you want to increase your alertness and concentration, try swapping your regular caffeine drink in the morning for a nice cup of hot chocolate – made with unprocessed and unsweetened cacao powder.

Beneficial to the heart. No single food will confer immunity from illness, but both tea and chocolate, which are plant foods, can be components of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. It's important to include a wide variety of plant foods in your diet every day.

Recent research at the University of California, has found that chocolate carries high levels of chemicals known as phenolics, some of which may help lower the risk of heart disease. Plants such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and others contain high levels of phenolics. 

The truth about the health benefits of chocolate is finally reaching our ears. However, the whole truth should be told. Chocolate is healthy if it is dark with no added dairy products/milk or refined sugar. So the next time you’re having a bad day and feel like you need something to make you smile, just have a piece of good quality dark chocolate without feeling guilty!

Chocolate 'has health benefits'

Eating dark chocolate could help control diabetes and blood pressure, Italian experts say. 

Researchers found eating 100g of dark chocolate each day for 15 days lowered blood pressure in the 15 person-study. The University of L'Aquila team also found the body's ability to metabolise sugar - a problem for people with diabetes - was improved. But eating the same quantities of white chocolate did not have an effect, the researchers said. The team said an antioxidant called flavanol was responsible for the effect because it neutralised potentially cell-damaging substances known as oxygen free radicals, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported. 

“ We would still recommend a balanced low fat, salt and sugar diet that includes starchy carbohydrates and plenty of fruit and vegetables ” 
Amanda Vezey, of Diabetes UK 

Writing in the journal, nutrition expert Cesar Fraga, of the University of California, said the findings on blood pressure seemed credible. He said other foods containing flavanols, such as tea and wine, have a similar effect on blood pressure.

For full article: 

Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Flavonoids in dark chocolate are a naturally occurring antioxidant similar to those found in teas, red wine, and some fruits and vegetables. These flavonoids are thought to have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, and one recent study showed that 6 grams of dark chocolate a day (about one square) lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 2 points each. 

The study also claims that dark chocolate may lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by about 5 points. Not a major effect to be sure, but pushing the "bad" cholesterol downwards. Flavonoids also benefit the way the lining of the blood vessels function.

“We think a lot of bad things that happen to the cardiovascular system are because the lining of the vessels cracks and becomes inflamed, setting the stage for plaques to form and rupture,” says Robert Sheeler, M.D., a family physician at Mayo Clinic.

Don't forget, chocolate contains calories and fat, so these findings are not an invitation to go on a chocolate binge. Dr. Sheeler says just one square a day (about 30 calories) will provide the health benefits described. He recommends chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa; milk chocolate by contrast has only 15-25% cocoa, while dark chocolate can contain as much as 80%+ cocoa. 

For full article:

Extracts from Suite101.com – Chocolate in Pregnancy

Can Eating Chocolate Prevent Pre-eclampsia?

The chemical theobromine, which is known to stimulate the heart, relax smooth muscle and dilate blood vessels, is found in chocolate and a research study in 2008 at Yale University suggests that consumption by pregnant women of chocolate rich in the chemical could help prevent pre-eclampsia (a condition of hypertension in pregnancy associated with significant amounts of protein in the urine).

See "Chocolate Consumption in Pregnancy and Reduced Likelihood of Pre-eclampsia", Epidemiology: Vol 19(3) May 2008, 459–464.

Chocolate Makes You Happy

In 2004 researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland asked over 300 pregnant women to rate their psychological stress levels and chocolate consumption. Six months after the birth of their babies, the mothers rated their babies' behaviour in various categories, including fear, soothability, smiling and laughter. The babies born to mothers who had eaten chocolate daily during pregnancy rated more positively the temperament of their infants. The babies of stressed mothers who had regularly eaten chocolate showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed women who had not consumed chocolate. The researchers speculated that the happy behaviour observed in the babies might result from chemicals in chocolate, which are associated with positive mood, being passed on to the baby in the womb. See "Sweet babies: chocolate consumption during pregnancy and infant temperament at six months", Early Human Development: Vol 76, Issue 2, 139–145.

Chocolate Cravings

Dr. Michel Odent MD, an obstetrician who has had an enormous influence on the history of childbirth and health research over the last several decades and who achieved familiarity for introducing the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms, carried out a study about nutrition in pregnancy ………………….. Dr. Odent observed that chocolate is rich in magnesium, an important catalyst for fatty acid metabolism and that magnesium is needed in increased amounts during pregnancy for the development of the foetus’ brain. He found that chocolate is also rich in flavonoids, which have potent antioxidant properties helping the cardiovascular, immune and cancer-fighting system.

For full article:

University research proves that dark chocolate should be gift of love this Valentines

You’ll be doing your sweetheart a big favour this Valentine’s Day if your gift contains dark chocolate. Researchers from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh have shown that dark chocolate rich in polyphenols can serve as a convenient daily source of antioxidant, reduce blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels. Surprisingly results also showed that participants involved in the research did not gain any weight while consuming their quota of dark chocolate. 

For full article:

Harvard Study: Dark Chocolate Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

It also helps lower risk of diabetes, heart disease

More good news for chocolate lovers: A new Harvard study finds that eating a small square of dark chocolate daily can help lower blood pressure for people with hypertension.

The study joins the growing research into the heart-healthy benefits of flavonoids, compounds in unsweetened chocolate that cause dilation of the blood vessels. The Harvard study was announced today in Atlanta at the American Heart Association's science session on cardiovascular disease.

Read the full article on the AARP website:

A recent article on the Cleveland Clinic Website asks:

Is Chocolate Good for Your Heart?

Why a little, in moderation, may be beneficial 

Chocolate has gotten a lot of media coverage in recent years because it's believed that it may help protect your cardiovascular system. The reasoning being that the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids.

Flavonoids help protect plants from environmental toxins and help repair damage. They can be found in a variety of foods, such as fruits and vegetables. When we eat foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this "antioxidant" power. 

Flavanols are the main type of flavonoid found in cocoa and chocolate. In addition to having antioxidant qualities, research shows that flavanols have other potential influences on vascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood flow to the brain and heart, and making blood platelets less sticky and able to clot.

Read the full article:

Two articles from Natural News website:

Dark chocolate may help prevent colon cancer

6/2/2012 - Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths annually, a statistic that remains constant despite increased awareness of the deadly disease. Researchers from the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain have published the result of a study in the journal Molecular Nutrition...
Cocoa Flavanols from dark chocolate improve vision and cognitive function

27/5/2011 - Potent cacao flavanols from dark chocolate have proven effective in lowering the risk from heart disease and sudden heart attack in recent studies. Writing in the journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers demonstrate that antioxidants released by consumption of cocoa products can improve multiple...

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