Chocolate and health
One of my first blog posts was on the health benefits of coffee. Not only has coffee drinking undergone a mass transformation with Starbucks, Peets, and all the other new age coffee shops, but the perception of coffee as been unhealthy has now been soundly refuted by numerous studies.
Now comes chocolate.
Several recent studies have shown:
1. Cocoa reduces blood pressure, so much so that the author of the study stated “The effect of ingesting "flavanol-rich cocoa products [was] somewhat comparable to [results from] other lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise--a 3- to 5-mm-Hg reduction--and may serve as a complementary treatment option,".
2. Cocoa can boost cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. "Our data suggest that regular cocoa flavanol consumption, in the context of a calorie-controlled and nutritionally balanced diet, might represent an effective strategy in preserving brain and cardiovascular health and function," the author of the study concluded. "Obviously, larger studies are needed to validate our findings."
3. Chocolate reduces stroke risk in Swedish men. This may be due to its blood pressure lowering effects.
4. Chocolate-loving countries produce more Nobel laureates. Okay, this is little tongue-in-cheek, but there is a linear correlation between a countries chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel laureates produced per capita.
5. Cocoa combats inflammation. In obese mice, cocoa consumption significant reduced markers of inflammation and triglycerides.
There are other studies suggesting that cocoa reduces insulin resistance in diabetics, reduces clot formation, and is an abundant source of antioxidants.
My suggestion: chocolate in moderation. Go for darkest versions with the least sugar. Maybe some cherries and nuts mixed in for additional cardiovascular benefits.
Ried K, Sullivan TR, Fakler P, et al. Effect of cocoa on blood pressure. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008893.pub2. Available here.
Ried K, Sullivan T, Fakler P, et al. Does chocolate reduce
blood pressure? A meta-analysis. BMC Med 2010; 8:39. Abstract
Desideri G, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. The Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging study. Hypertension DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.112.193060. Available at: http://hyper.ahajournals.org.
Neurology. 2012;79:1223-1229. Published online August 29, 2012.
N Engl J Med. Published online October 10, 2012
Yeyi Gu, Shan Yu, Joshua D. Lambert. “Dietary cocoa ameliorates obesity-related inflammation in high fat-fed mice.” European Journal of Nutrition, March 2013.