Imagine a drug that eases inflammation, reduces the risk of blood clots, relaxes blood vessels, improves circulation, improves liver function and blood sugar control, relieves stress and enhances mood. A medication that could do all those things might easily cost hundreds of dollars a month. It would likely top the doctors’ hit parade of most prescribed drugs.
We have just such a “medicine” and it’s delicious to boot. Yup…CHOCOLATE can do all those things and more! We doubt you’ll get a prescription any time soon, but there is plenty of information here.
Cocoa Flavanols Fight Inflammation:
A review in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology (Dec. 12, 2013) considers how cocoa flavanols affect the human body. The authors are hard-core biochemists from Innsbruck Medical University in Austria. These researchers note that there are more than 380 compounds in cocoa, many of which are known to be powerful antioxidants with numerous pharmacological activities including:
- Anti-inflammatory biochemistry
- Anti platelet action (reducing the sticky part of blood to reduce the risk of blood clots)
- Immune system modulation (enhancing cellular defense against viruses, bacteria and parasites)
- Nitric oxide enhancement (improving blood vessel flexibility & lowering blood pressure)
- Anti-oxidative effects (combatting atherosclerosis)
- Neurotransmitter modulation (improving mood)
A review article in the prestigious journal Stroke (online, Dec. 10, 2013) titled “Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa and Risk of Stroke” reveals that cocoa flavanols reduce blood pressure and control insulin resistance:
“Cacao products, such as chocolate, are rich sources of flavonoids, which are potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds…A recent meta-analysis of 42 acute or short-term chronic (≤ 18 weeks) RCTs [randomized controlled trials] found that cocoa or chocolate interventions significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations, insulin resistance and mean arterial pressure as well as improved endothelia function measured by FMD [flow mediated dilation, a measure of blood vessel flexibility]…Results from a meta-analysis of those 5 [prospective epidemiological] studies (4 from Europe and 1 from the United States) showed a significant 19% lower risk of stroke when comparing the highest with the lowest category of chocolate consumption and a significant 14% reduction in stroke risks for a 50-g/week increment in chocolate consumption…”
Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy:
Another exciting benefit of chocolate may be its protective action against hypertension in pregnant women. This is a sign of preeclampsia, a very serious complication of pregnancy. Left untreated, this condition can lead to seizures that harm mothers and infants. One of the early signs of preeclampsia is loss of blood vessel flexibility (endothelial function impairment). If dark chocolate could counteract this physiological problem, it would be a delicious antidote to a life-threatening problem (Systematic Reviews, Dec. 20, 2013) and might help some women avoid emergency C-sections.
All of these health benefits are important, but it is entirely possible that some people will be even more intrigued by a recent 6-month study showing that women who took cocoa flavanols (320 mg/day) instead of placebo had more elastic skin and less visible wrinkles at the end of the trial (Journal of Nutrition, online Nov. 18, 2015).
Keeping Cognitive Capacity:
Keeping the brain working properly is another goal that can be hard to achieve, so a study conducted in Italy with 90 older adults is quite promising. The volunteers were randomly assigned to get varying amounts of cocoa flavanols. They were tested at the beginning and end of the 8-week trial, and those who had received high-dose cocoa flavanols (993 mg/day) fared significantly better than those getting low-dose cocoa flavanols (48 mg/day). The research was partly funded by Mars, the maker of CocoaVia, but it is consistent with previous findings (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March, 2015).
Is it possible to overdose on cocoa flavanols? There might well be negative effects of eating too much chocolate, but a recent study found that people can tolerate the surprisingly high dose of 2000 mg of cocoa flavanols a day without apparent harm (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online Nov. 4, 2015).
Where Do You Get Cocoa Flavanols?
Finding the best chocolate for pharmacological benefits is not always easy. There is no standardized way of determining the flavanol content of cocoa or chocolate by reading most labels. That’s why we like what CocoaVia has done. This product offers a standardized amount of 375 mg of cocoa flavanols per serving.