Chocolate, considered by some to be the “food of the gods,” has been part of the
human diet for at least 4,000 years; its origin thought to be in the region
surrounding the Amazon basin. Introduced to the Western world by Christopher
Columbus after his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502, chocolate is now
enjoyed worldwide. Researchers estimate that the typical American consumes over
10 pounds of chocolate annually, with those living on the west coast eating the
Wouldn’t it be great if only chocolate were considered healthy? In fact,
chocolate is a great source of myriad substances that scientists think might
impart important health benefits. For instance, it contains compounds called
“flavanols” that appear to play a variety of bodily roles including those
related to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. Many
large-scale human studies have documented a statistical correlation between
flavanol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease. And 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.
fill this knowledge gap, researchers at San Diego State University tested their
hypothesis that chocolate, in particular dark chocolate which contains higher
levels of flavanols than milk chocolate, may protect against the risk of
cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, blood flow, and improving
blood lipid levels.
In this prospective, controlled human intervention
study, 31 fortunate subjects were assigned randomly to consume either a daily
serving (50 grams) of either regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate
(70% cocoa) that had been overheated or “bloomed,” or white chocolate (0%
cocoa). The subjects were asked to consume the chocolate for 15 days. Blood
pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid profiles, and blood glucose
levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.
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).
The researchers concluded
that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving
glucose levels and lipid profiles. However, they cautioned that—although
habitual dark chocolate consumption may benefit one’s health by reducing the
risk of cardiovascular disease—it must be eaten in moderation because it can
easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories. Indeed, the authors
commented, "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." The group reports that it is planning follow-up studies involving
more subjects and a longer duration of chocolate consumption.
This article was first published at www.newswise.com