Tag Archives: chocolate

Image result for dark chocolate Chocolate lovers can rejoice - because another study, which was actually a review of other studies - found that frequent consumption of chocolate, cocoa, and cocoa flavanols (an ingredient of cocoa) is linked with beneficial health effects. These included cardiovascular benefits, and dose-dependent improvements in cognition, attention, and memory. In other words - the more frequently one eats chocolate and cocoa (especially dark chocolate), the more beneficial health effects. So eat and enjoy! From Medical Xpress:

Cocoa and chocolate are not just treats—they are good for your cognition

A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands - a phrase commonly used to justify one's chocolate snacking behavior. A phrase now shown to actually harbor some truth, as the cocoa bean is a rich source of flavanols: a class of natural compounds that has neuroprotective effects. In their recent review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, Italian researchers examined the available literature for the effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on different cognitive domains. In other words: what happens to your brain up to a few hours after you eat cocoa flavanols, and what happens when you sustain such a cocoa flavanol enriched diet for a prolonged period of time?

Although randomized controlled trials investigating the acute effect of cocoa flavanols are sparse, most of them point towards a beneficial effect on cognitive performance. Participants showed, among others, enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after having had cocoa flavanols. And for women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation actually counteracted the cognitive impairment (i.e. less accuracy in performing tasks) that such a night brings about. Promising results for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work shifts.

The effects of relatively long-term ingestion of cocoa flavanols (ranging from 5 days up to 3 months) has generally been investigated in elderly individuals. It turns out that for them cognitive performance was improved by a daily intake of cocoa flavanols. Factors such as attention, processing speed, working memory, and verbal fluency were greatly affected. These effects were, however, most pronounced in older adults with a starting memory decline or other mild cognitive impairments.

And this was exactly the most unexpected and promising result according to authors Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara from the University of L'Aquila in Italy. "This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance. If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. This structure is particularly affected by aging and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans."

So should cocoa become a dietary supplement to improve our cognition? "Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time. There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk." Nonetheless, the scientists are the first to put their results into practice: "Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day." [Original study.]

Image result for dark chocolate  Another yes to daily chocolate consumption -  a 3.5 oz. chocolate bar a day! This study looked at 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old and found an inverse relationship between daily chocolate consumption and levels of insulin and liver enzymes. This suggests that chocolate consumption may improve liver enzymes and protect against insulin resistance (risk factors for cardiometabolic disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, or stroke). From Science Daily:

Eating chocolate each day could reduce heart disease, diabetes risk

A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition appears to back up the adage that a little of what you fancy does you good. Including a small amount of chocolate each day could help prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. That's one of the research findings from the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Warwick Medical School, the University of South Australia and the University of Maine.

Data of 1,153 people aged 18-69 years old who were part of the Observation of Cardiovascular Risk in Luxembourg (ORISCAV-LUX) study were analysed. It was found that those who ate 100 g of chocolate a day -- equivalent to a bar -- had reduced insulin resistance and improved liver enzymes. Insulin sensitivity is a well-established risk factor to cardiovascular disease.

The academics hypothesised that chocolate consumption may have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity and liver enzymes and therefore decided to analyse a national sample of adults, taking into account lifestyle and dietary factors, including the simultaneous consumption of tea and coffee. This is because both drinks can be high in polyphenol, the substance which may provide chocolate with its beneficial cardiometabolic effects.

More than 80% of participants claimed to eat an average of 24.8 g of chocolate a day. The study also found that those who claimed to eat chocolate were younger, more physically active and had higher levels of education than those who claimed not to eat chocolate on a daily basis. Dr Ala'a Alkerwi, the Principal Investigator of the study at LIH said: "It is also possible that chocolate consumption may represent an overall marker for a cluster of favourable socio-demographic profiles, healthier lifestyle behaviours and better health status. This could explain, at least in part, the observed inverse associations with insulin and liver biomarkers."

Image result for dark chocolate My kind of study! Eating up to 100 grams of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. Not just dark chocolate, but milk chocolate also. Note that 100 grams of chocolate is equal to about 3.5 ounces chocolate.From Science Daily:

Chocolate for your heart

Eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. The calculations showed that compared with those who ate no chocolate higher intake was linked to an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% lower risk of associated death.

They base their findings on almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England, using food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires.... were monitored for an average of almost 12 years, during which time 3013 (14%) people experienced either an episode of fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease or stroke. Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any chocolate, but among the others, daily consumption averaged 7 g, with some eating up to 100 g.

Higher levels of consumption were associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular physical activity --all of which add up to a favourable cardiovascular disease risk profile.Eating more chocolate was also associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbs and less protein and alcohol.

And among the 16,000 people whose inflammatory protein (CRP) level had been measured, those eating the most chocolate seemed to have an 18% lower risk than those who ate the least.The highest chocolate intake was similarly associated with a 23% lower risk of stroke, even after taking account of other potential risk factors.

Of nine relevant studies included in the systematic review, five studies each assessed coronary heart disease and stroke outcome, and they found a significantly lower risk of both conditions associated with regular chocolate consumption. And it was linked to a 25% lower risk of any episode of cardiovascular disease and a 45% lower risk of associated death.

This is an observational study so no definitive conclusions about cause and effect can be drawn. ...Nevertheless, they add: "Cumulative evidence suggests that higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events."And they point out that as milk chocolate, which is considered to be less 'healthy' than dark chocolate, was more frequently eaten by the EPIC-Norfolk participants, the beneficial health effects may extend to this type of chocolate too. 

Image result for dark chocolate Now this is shocking news for chocolate lovers - that it may be contaminated with lead and cadmium! Maybe it's not so bad for those who rarely eat chocolate, but it's not good for those who really love their chocolate and eat a lot. The group As You Sow did independent laboratory testing of 42 chocolate products for lead and cadmium and found that 26 of the chocolate products (~62%) contained lead and/or cadmium at levels in which one serving exceeds theCalifornia safe harbor level for reproductive harm.From The Washington Post:

How much lead is in your chocolate?

If you (like me) have been happily snarfing down chocolate in recent years, secure in the knowledge that those flavonols were at least doing good things for your heart, today is not your day. Just in time for Valentine's Day, a California consumer health watchdog group filed legal notices Wednesday demanding that many of the big chocolate companies post warnings on their packages that show their products contain high levels of lead and cadmium.

As You Sow, an Oakland nonprofit, says single servings of  26 products it tested (three times) contain more of the two harmful heavy metals than allowed under the Golden State's Proposition 65 toxic chemical warning law. Here is the list, which includes many of the big name producers of my favorite food. Try not to weep openly at work.

"We are getting [lead and cadmium] from multiple sources," Eleanne Van Vliet, director of toxic chemicals research for As You Sow, said in an interview. "The problem with those toxic heavy metals is they accumulate in the body. It’s terrible for adults, but especially for children." Overexposure to lead, of course, can cause all kinds of health problems,including lowering children's IQ. Cadmium is a carcinogen and can cause kidney and bone damage.

Now before you ask the boss to remove all the vending machines, let's be clear that the chocolate companies, and the association that represents them, are having none of this. They say there are, at worst, trace amounts of lead and cadmium in chocolate from natural sources and that regulators have rejected this argument before....Van Vliet insists that As You Sow is not talking about tiny amounts; rather, she says, if you think about the amount of chocolate the average person consumes each year, these concentrations are worrisome.If we could get them all in a room, both sides would probably agree on one thing: We do eat a lot of chocolate. 

.However, that prompted researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz to look into the amount of lead (but not cadmium) in chocolate, and the results were somewhat sobering. Their study, published in 2005 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, concluded that the lead in chocolate was not from naturally occurring sources, a stance that one of the researchers, Russ Flegal, reiterated when I called him.

"The average lead concentration of cocoa beans was ≤ 0.5 ng/g, which is one of the lowest reported values for a natural food," they wrote. "In contrast, lead concentrations of manufactured cocoa and chocolate products were as high as 230 and 70 ng/g, respectively, which are consistent with market-basket surveys that have repeatedly listed lead concentrations in chocolate products among the highest reported for all foods. One source of contamination of the finished products is tentatively attributed to atmospheric emissions of leaded gasoline, which is still being used in Nigeria."

Van Vliet says she doesn't know where the metals come from, only that they may enter the chocolate somewhere in the manufacturing process -- which Flegal said is also possible -- and are at unsafe levels in the chocolate we eat.