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Dark chocolate history goes back at least 3000 years. What began as a bitter drink in the pre-historic tropics of South America has become one of the world’s most popular treats. For most of this time, dark chocolate was the only form. So chocolate history is really the history of dark chocolate. Native American Drink Throughout the tropical areas of Central and South America, a room-temperature drink made from cacao seeds has been enjoyed for several thousand years, with the earliest documented usage between 1400 to 1100 BC.
Pre-columbian societies, through the Maya and Aztec, used the drink for ceremonial and medicinal purposes, and also as a luxury for the elite. Mayan glyph for cocoa This drink was very bitter, and was laced with various additions such as vanilla, chili pepper, sometimes alcohol, other spices, and corn meal. It was served warm, with no sugar or other sweetener, and would not be particularly recognizable today. Spanish Discovery Columbus was exposed to the native chocolate drink, but was unimpressed.
It was not until Hernando Cortez arrived that the value and possibilities in Spain were recognized.
Meeting of Cortez and Montezuma The Spanish added cane sugar, or sometimes honey, to the formula, and also started serving the drink hot. For almost 100 years the secrets of chocolate belonged exclusively to the Spanish, but then spread throughout Europe. At first, chocolate was available only to royalty and the nobility, but was later made available in coffee and chocolate houses to any who could afford the expensive luxury.
London chocolate house, ca 1708 Until this point, all chocolate was dark chocolate, so the history of chocolate was dark chocolate history.
It wasn’t until 1689 that milk was added to the chocolate drink by Hans Sloan in Jamaica. 19th Century Change and Innovation During the 19th century, chocolate changed from a dark chocolate drink available only to the rich to the inexpensive, mass-produced, eating chocolate that we enjoy today. The development and growth of large plantations and markets, and the industrial revolution and mass production techniques, led to chocolate that was inexpensive enough to be available to everyone, and developed some of the names we are still familiar with today. Original Lindt factory
In 1828, the Dutch chocolate maker Conrad van Houten invented a hydraulic press to make cocoa powder, and an alkanizing process used to mellow the taste, and to make the powder easier to mix with water. This process is now known as the “dutch process” or “dutching process”. In 1847, Fry and Sons of England created the first solid eating chocolate using a process similar to that used today. This product was, of course, a dark chocolate. Model of Lindt’s conche Cadbury’s began business operations in England in 1860. Tobler was making hand-made chocolates in Switzerland in 1864.
By 1876 the Swiss were adding dry milk to the formula to make milk chocolate. Lindt invented the conch in 1879. Milton Hershey began operations in 1894. And in 1899, Lindt and Sprungli were formed, and Tobler opened its first factory. Modern Times In the 20th century, mass distribution greatly increased the range and world-wide popularity of chocolate, with milk chocolate becoming the “primary”, most popular form. But, by the late 20th century, and into the early 21st, dark chocolate, the original, has been regaining popularity.
Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure Dark chocolate — not white chocolate — lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. But that’s no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure — if you’ve reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things. Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate.
Dark chocolate — but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk — is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. “Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.
” Translation: Say “Dark, please,” when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don’t even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word “moderate” as you nibble. The Studies Taubert’s team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure — on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84. Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories.
Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate. Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). Those who ate white chocolate did not. In the second study, Serafini’s team signed up seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate.
An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood. And they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all. * Our panel of expert tasters rated 22 brands of plain dark chocolate with 70-75% cocoa solids. * A panel of 65 everyday tasters also rated 15 of the chocolates. * Research evidence suggests that eating a small amount of dark chocolate won’t do much harm, and may do some good.
* There are many compelling reasons to choose organic fair trade chocolate, and our taste tests show your taste buds and conscience can be happy. Please note: this information was current as of October 2008 but is still a useful guide today. Tips for sustainable living The good news about the health benefits of chocolate keeps piling up, while the range of fair trade and organic chocolates in supermarkets and health food stores is growing exponentially.
Chocoholics finally think they have valid reason to indulge — with good conscience. We give you the facts behind the hype, while our expert tasters give us the verdict on the best chocolate. Availability and sales of the higher percentage (70%) dark chocolate are increasing as people seek out a cocoa hit that’s not too bitter and not too sweet. We hit the shops looking for blocks of plain dark chocolate with around 70% cocoa solids, and fed them to a panel of chocolate experts who were asked to consider the appearance, snap, aroma, taste and texture.
Sometimes we mere mortals have different tastes from the experts, so we wanted to see what our lay tasters thought – and also whether consumers who are trying to do the right thing by chocolate growers and the environment will be satisfied with the taste of organic and fair trade chocolate. CHOICE staff were more than happy to help find the answers. Choice verdict All in all, the evidence suggests that eating a small amount of dark chocolate won’t do much harm, and may do some good.
If you enjoy strong dark chocolate, you get more of the good stuff — cocoa — and less of the sugar, and your chocolate craving should be satisfied with less. If you substitute plain dark chocolate for junk food, you may well come out ahead health-wise. On the other hand, there are plenty of other, perhaps healthier, ways to boost your flavonoid intake: fruit and vegetables give you the added benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals, while straight black or green tea give you a kilojoule-free antioxidant boost. Is it healthy? Media reports in recent years have elevated the status of chocolate from guilt-ridden treat to functional food.
Yet with more than 40% fat, including about 26% saturated fat, and almost 30% sugar, it’s extraordinary that even dark chocolate, which is considered healthier than milk chocolate, could be considered remotely healthy. True, it contains a little protein and various minerals, including iron, copper, magnesium and zinc. But its main saving grace is that it contains high levels of flavonoids — chemicals that help protect plants from disease and insects. Gram for gram, cocoa contains higher levels of flavonoids than other renowned sources such as red wine, tea, apples and berries.
Studies researching the benefits of both cocoa and high-cocoa chocolate have shown that it: * Improves blood vessel health by increasing the elasticity of artery walls so they can dilate more readily, which in turn affects blood flow volume and pressure. * Reduces blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. And the more you eat, the greater the drop. People with normal blood pressure don’t appear to be affected. * Reduces inflammation and plaque build-up in blood vessels, which can lead to artherosclerosis. * Decreases blood platelet activity.
By clinging together to make clots and to the sides of blood vessel walls, blood platelets are involved in stroke and other clot-related problems such as thromboses, as well as artherosclerosis. Chocolate has been found to have the same anti-platelet effects as aspirin. * Improves cholesterol profile by increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels and lowering LDLs (bad cholesterol). Even though it contains high levels of saturated fat, one of these fats, stearic acid, is converted to oleic acid — a monounsaturated fat that doesn’t raise cholesterol.
Combined with the oleic acids already present in the chocolate, these appear to counteract the negative effects of the other saturated fat, palmitic acid, making it at least blood cholesterol neutral and perhaps even lowering it. * Improves insulin resistance and sensitivity. Does it have to be dark? Some people really don’t like dark chocolate and would much rather eat milk chocolate. If it means having to eat three times as much to get the same benefit … well, that’s the price that has to be paid for —ahem — good health. The trouble is, it’s not so simple.
Some tests suggest that the milk proteins inhibit the absorption of cocoa flavonoids, so even if you eat more milk chocolate to compensate for the lack of cocoa, or eat milk chocolate with higher cocoa content, you still won’t get the same benefit as eating pure dark chocolate. But evidence for this is contradictory: just as some studies have found that milk reduces flavonoid absorption, others have found it doesn’t. Such discrepancies appear to be in part due to differences between individuals, and in small studies these differences may mask an overall effect.
The theory also suggests that eating or drinking dairy products just before or after dark chocolate reduces its effects, and at least one study has found this to be true. So, while there’s no definitive answer on whether milk inhibits the flavonoids’ effects, you still get more antioxidant bang for your kilojoule buck by eating dark rather than milk chocolate. It can be healthy, but… Given all the positive health findings, it’s not surprising that chocolate is being promoted — especially by chocolate companies — as a deliciously useful part of the diet for improving cardiovascular health.
Yet many health professionals have hesitated to embrace chocolate as the new cure-all superfood. One reason is that it’s unclear whether or not short-term trial effects will translate into long-term real-life health benefits. Flavonoids are known to interact with certain proteins, fats, sugars and alcohol, which can affect their absorption. While you can restrict people’s diets for a short time while conducting a trial, in a long-term real-life whole-diet perspective, results may not be quite as spectacular. Nor is it known how long any short-term effects will be maintained. So, more long-term studies are needed.
A couple of real-life studies linked long-term regular chocolate consumption with better overall health, but that may be more to do with other demographic and lifestyle factors of the people who choose to eat chocolate than the effects of the chocolate itself. Another concern is that favourable results are often overemphasised, and what is a statistically significant result is not always clinically significant. That is, there may well have been a measurable difference in blood pressure or cholesterol, but not necessarily enough to make a meaningful difference to a person’s health.
It’s been established that there are big differences in the way that people absorb flavonoids, so the effects won’t necessarily be consistent from one person to another. To add to the confusion, not all chocolate is created equal — levels of flavonoids may depend not only on the percentage of cocoa in the chocolate, but also the growing conditions, initial handling of the cocoa beans and the manufacturing process. What you buy might not be in the same league as what was proven beneficial in tests. This makes it hard to pin down how much of which chocolate you need for health benefits.
And the amount of chocolate consumed in some of these studies is enormous. The 100 grams of chocolate in some studies would account for more than one-quarter of the average person’s daily kilojoule requirements — with little other nutritional benefit. You can understand why health professionals are reluctant to encourage this level of consumption. Finally, much of the research is conducted or sponsored by the chocolate or cocoa industry, which leaves it open to potential bias, such as not reporting null or negative results Dark Chocolate
Good quality chocolate has a higher percentage of chocolate paste and lower amount of sugar. Standards in the U. S. require dark chocolate to contain at least 35% chocolate paste; in Europe the requirement is for a minimum of 43%. With the increase in popularity of dark chocolate, many bars contain at least 60% and often 70 to 80% chocolate paste. Dark chocolate is increasing in popularity as can also be seen in the recent introduction of dark chocolate M & Ms.
DarkChocolatesContainAntioxidantssimilartotheantioxidantsinredwine•Chocolatephenolshelptopreventatherosclerosis•Chocolatephenolsgobbleupdestructivemoleculesandfreeradicalswhicharethemaincontributorsfordevelopingheartdiseasesandotherillnesses•Belgianchocolatesareenrichedwithcocoaphenols•Darkchocolatescanlowerhighbloodpressure•Healthyfoodsmustnotbereplacedbychocolates. Bitter, not sweet, less sugar, not creamy, smooth, rich Dark chocolate has recently been discovered to have a number of healthy benefits.
While eating dark chocolate can lead to the health benefits described below, remember that chocolate is also high in fat. Use FitDay to keep track of your calories and nutrition as you work towards your weight loss goals. 1) Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Heart Studies show that eating a small amount of dark chocolate two or three times each week can help lower your blood pressure. Dark chocolate improves blood flow and may help prevent the formation of blood clots. Eating dark chocolate may also prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
2) Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Brain Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart, so it can help improve cognitive function. Dark chocolate also helps reduce your risk of stroke. Dark chocolate also contains several chemical compounds that have a positive effect on your mood and cognitive health. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release endorphins, so eating dark chocolate will make you feel happier.
Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, a mild stimulant. However, dark chocolate contains much less caffeine than coffee. A 1. 5 ounce bar of dark chocolate contains 27 mg of caffeine, compared to the 200 mg found in an eight ounce cup of coffee. 3) Dark Chocolate Helps Control Blood Sugar Dark chocolate helps keep your blood vessels healthy and your circulation unimpaired to protect against type 2 diabetes. The flavonoids in dark chocolate also help reduce insulin resistance by helping your cells to function normally and regain the ability to use your body’s insulin efficiently.
Dark chocolate also has a low glycemic index, meaning it won’t cause huge spikes in blood sugar levels. 4) Dark Chocolate is Full of Antioxidants Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help free your body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells. Free radicals are implicated in the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating antioxidant rich foods like dark chocolate can protect you from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging. 5) Dark Chocolate Contains Theobromine Dark chocolate contains theobromine, which has been shown to harden tooth enamel.
That means that dark chocolate, unlike most other sweets, lowers your risk of getting cavities if you practice proper dental hygiene. Theobromine is also a mild stimulant, though not as strong as caffeine. It can, however, help to suppress coughs. 6) Dark Chocolate is High in Vitamins and Minerals Dark chocolate contains a number of vitamins and minerals that can support your health. Dark chocolate contains some of the following vitamins and minerals in high concentrations: Potassium Copper Magnesium Iron.
The copper and potassium in dark chocolate help prevent against stroke and cardiovascular ailments. The iron in chocolate protects against iron deficiency anemia, and the magnesium in chocolate helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. 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. Antioxidants are believed to help the body’s cells resist damage caused by free radicals that are formed by normal bodily processes, such as breathing, and from environmental contaminants, like cigarette smoke. If your body does not have enough antioxidants to combat the amount of oxidation that occurs, it can become damaged by free radicals.
For example, an increase in oxidation can cause low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad” cholesterol, to form plaque on the artery walls. 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. These plant chemicals aren’t only found in chocolate.
In fact, a wide variety of foods and beverages are rich in flavonols. These include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea and red wine. Are all types of chocolate healthy? Before you grab a chocolate candy bar or slice of chocolate cake, it’s important to understand that not all forms of chocolate contain high levels of flavanols. Cocoa naturally has a very strong, pungent taste, which comes from the flavanols. When cocoa is processed into your favorite chocolate products, it goes through several steps to reduce this taste.
The more chocolate is processed (through things like fermentation, alkalizing, roasting, etc. ), the more flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed. Although it was once believed that dark chocolate contained the highest levels flavanols, recent research indicates that, depending on how the dark chocolate was processed, this may not be true. The good news is that most major chocolate manufacturers are looking for ways to keep the flavanols in their processed chocolates.
But for now, your best choices are likely dark chocolate over milk chocolate (especially milk chocolate that is loaded with other fats and sugars) and cocoa powder that has not undergone Dutch processing (cocoa that is treated with an alkali to neutralize its natural acidity). What about all of the fat in chocolate? You may be surprised to learn that chocolate isn’t as bad for you as once believed. The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up of equal amounts of oleic acid (a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olive oil), stearic and palmitic acids.
Stearic and palmitic acids are forms of saturated fat. You may know that saturated fats are linked to increases in LDL cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. But, research shows that stearic acid appears to have a neutral effect on cholesterol, neither raising nor lowering it. Although palmitic acid does affect cholesterol levels, it only makes up one-third of the fat calories in chocolate. Still, this does not mean you can eat all the dark chocolate you’d like. First, be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose: chewy caramel-marshmallow-nut-covered dark chocolate is by no means a heart-healthy food option.
Watch out for those extra ingredients that can add lots of extra fat and calories. Second, there is currently no established serving size of chocolate to help you reap the cardiovascular benefits it may offer, and more research is needed in this area. However, we do know that you no longer need to feel guilty if you enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate once in a while. So, for now, enjoy moderate portions of chocolate (e. g. , 1 ounce) a few times per week, and don’t forget to eat other flavonoid-rich foods like apples, red wine, tea, onions and cranberries.
Why You Should Eat and Drink High-Cacao Dark Chocolate Yes, I know, I know. That title isn’t exactly comforting. I hate giving you guys bad news, seeing as how you make this website possible, and I hate making unpopular recommendations like “eat more butter” or “get some sun” or “drink a glass of red wine,” but I have to stick to the truth here, even if it hurts. And the truth is that you should probably be eating dark chocolate on a semi-regular basis because the stuff is pretty dang good for you. Before you log out, never to return again, give me a minute to explain myself: You were kids once.
Your parents probably forced you to finish your overcooked, mushy, bland veggies or wash your hands and finish your homework – or some other routine unpleasantry – “for your own good,” and that’s what I’m doing here. Dark chocolate is healthy. It may be awful, terrible, and disgusting, but it contains some really good things that have some remarkable effects on various markers of health. So, yeah, eat your chocolate. Finish your raw cacao powder. Choke down that homemade hot chocolate. Hold your noses if you have to, but get it down and done. I’m kidding, of course. There’s no arm twisting required when it comes to chocolate.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that the Primal community can suck down some high quality dark chocolate. Don’t think I didn’t see how quickly that chocolate disappeared at last year’s PrimalCon. And why wouldn’t it? Dark chocolate’s great, the perfect storm of flavor, flavonoids, and fat. It tastes really good, comes loaded with polyphenols, and cocoa butter is a great source of saturated and monounsaturated fat. High-cacao dark chocolate, then, is quite literally a healthy candy bar. What’s not to love? I’ve discussed my favorite dark chocolate in the past. I’ve even provided chocolate-choosing tips.
But until today, I’ve never really explained why we should be including high-cacao dark chocolate in our diets. I’ve never explicitly outlined the myriad health benefits that cacao offers. Well, let’s get to it, shall we? Dark chocolate contains healthy fats. Cocoa butter, which is extracted from the cacao bean and incorporated into most reputable dark chocolate bars, is mostly monounsaturated and saturated fat, with very little polyunsaturated fat. And because most of that saturated fat is stearic acid, widely known for having neutral effects on LDL, even avowed lipophobes can happily and heartily gobble up cacao fat.
Dark chocolate contains lots of polyphenols, particularly flavanols. When it comes to polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity, cacao trounces the “superfruits” acai, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry and whatever else your annoying friend who always falls for multilevel marketing schemes is hawking this week. The most studied polyphenol in cacao is epicatechin, a flavanol. Although last week’s post on the benefits of polyphenol consumption centered on pigment-derived antioxidants, cacao’s polyphenols are also quite potent and potentially healthful. What happens when the rubber hits the road, though?
Or, somewhat more literally, what happens when the square of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate melts on the tongue, is swallowed, digested, and incorporated into the body? What are the actual health benefits of consuming high-cacao content dark chocolate? Dark chocolate and blood pressure. Epidemiological studies pretty consistently show that dark chocolate consumption is related to lower blood pressure readings. In Jordan, among Kuna Indians living in Panama, among pregnant women, and among elderly Dutch, this holds true. That’s all well and good, but it’s just an association.
We need controlled studies: One found that fifteen days of eating dark chocolate, but not white chocolate, lowered blood pressure (and improved insulin sensitivity) in healthy subjects. The main difference between white and dark chocolate is the polyphenol content; both types contain cocoa fat. Cocoa consumption also improved arterial flow in smokers. Some studies suggest that the flavonoids are key. In one, flavanol-rich dark chocolate consumption improved endothelial function while increasing plasma levels of flavanols (which indicates the flavanols had something to do with it).
Another study used flavanol-rich cocoa to increase nitric oxide production in healthy humans, thus inducing vasodilation and improving endothelial function. In another, the highest dose of cacao flavanoids caused the biggest drop in blood pressure. Still another found that while dark chocolate did not reduce blood pressure, improve lipids, nor reduce oxidative stress, it did improve coronary circulation. Or maybe it’s the soluble fiber. In “spontaneously hypertensive” rats, cacao-derived soluble fiber lowered blood pressure, perhaps by reducing weight gain.
It’s probably both, in my opinion, although the polyphenols undoubtedly contribute more to the cause than the five grams or so of soluble fiber you’ll get in the average serving of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate and cardiovascular disease. You’ve heard of the cholesterol-fed rabbit; how about the cocoa-fed rabbit? If the former is an effective vehicle to study the negative effects of poor lipid clearance, the latter is a testament to the inhibitory effects of cocoa polyphenols on lipid peroxidation. We also have similar findings in rodents.
Feeding hypercholesterolemic and normocholesterolemic rats polyphenol-rich “cocoa fiber” (defatted, sugar-free chocolate, basically) reduced markers of lipid peroxidation in both groups (PDF). It also seems to work quite well in test tubes. In humans, both with normal and elevated cholesterol levels, eating cocoa powder mixed with hot water lowered oxidized LDL and ApoB (LDL particle number, which, if you remember my post on lipid panels, you want to lower) counts while increasing HDL. All three doses of high-flavanol cocoa powder – 13, 19. 5, and 26 g/day – proved beneficial. If you’re wondering, 26 grams of powder is about a quarter cup.
It also works if you drink it with milk (and no, Hershey’s syrup doesn’t work the same). Given the effects of chocolate on lipid peroxidation, we can probably surmise that it will also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. And indeed, epidemiological studies suggest that this is the case. In a sample of over 2200 patients (PDF), chocolate consumption was inversely associated with progression of atherosclerotic plaque (determined by calcium scoring). What’s incredible is that the association held for chocolate in general, and I don’t think it’s likely that everyone was consuming 100% raw cacao powder brimming with polyphenols.
A study from this year from the same group got similar results: chocolate consumption was inversely associated with prevalent cardiovascular disease. While most cacao research focuses on vascular function and heart disease risk, there are other, less intensively-studied benefits. Here are a few of them: Dark chocolate and insulin resistance. For fifteen days, hypertensive, glucose-intolerant patients received either 100 daily grams of high-polyphenol dark chocolate or 100 daily grams of zero-polyphenol white chocolate.
Diets were isocaloric, and nothing differed between the groups besides the type of chocolate. Dark chocolate improved beta cell function, lowered blood pressure, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved endothelial function, while white chocolate did none of those things. Dark chocolate and fatty liver. Rats with fatty liver evince higher levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, but cocoa supplementation partially attenuated these pathological changes – even in choline-deficient rats.
While cocoa wasn’t enough to fully resolve fatty liver, the researchers concluded that cocoa may be of therapeutic benefit in “less severe” forms of fatty liver. Dark chocolate and UV damage. Resistance to UV damage is commonly measured by MED – minimal erythema dose. A higher MED means greater resistance to UV rays, while a lower MED indicates lower resistance. High MED, good. Low MED, bad. One study found that feeding high levels of dark chocolate to healthy people over twelve weeks doubled their MED; feeding low levels of dark chocolate had no effect on the MED.
Similarly, another study found that a high-flavanol-from-cacao group had greater resistance to a given UV dosage than a low-flavanol-from-cacao group (who actually saw no benefit at all) over a six and twelve-week period. Those interested in a fairly comprehensive compendium of chocolate research can check it out here. I tried to stick to in vivo research, but there’s more theoretical stuff out there too. Seeing as how most of chocolate’s benefits stem from the polyphenol content, and most of the studies that saw large effects used “high-flavanol” dark chocolate, you should be gunning for chocolate with high polyphenol counts.
Dutch processed, or alkalized, chocolate lightens the color, removes some of the bitter compounds, and gives it a milder taste. Awesome for Hershey’s Kisses, but awful for the flavanol content. Those “bitter compounds,” you see, are the flavanols. Without the bitterness (which I think of as complexity), you’re missing most of the beneficial polyphenols. It might taste good, but it won’t perform all of the aforementioned physiological tasks.
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