A recent study is adding more evidence to the idea that a little bit of chocolate may be the key to keeping the doctor away. The study, which was published in the “British Journal of Nutrition,” showed that the moderate consumption of dark chocolate can provide significant cardiometabolic health benefits. Some of the benefits include decreased insulin resistance, a leading risk factor for diabetes and heart disease, and improved liver function.
Professor Saverio Stranges and a team of researchers set out to determine if chocolate intake had any impact on how the body responded to and utilized insulin. They also wanted to find out how chocolate affected enzyme levels used to measure liver function. The team asked a group of 1,153 subjects between the ages of 18 and 69 to complete a questionnaire regarding their intake of chocolate. Nearly 82 percent of those questioned reported consuming chocolate averaging 24.8 grams daily. Study participants who ate chocolate on a regular basis had better liver enzyme levels and insulin sensitivity even taking into account other factors, such as age and lifestyle, that could impact the results. Individuals who reported eating chocolate tended to be younger, more educated, and more active that those who did not eat chocolate. The researchers also point out that the consumption of tea and coffee, which are also both high in antioxidants, may add to the cardiometabolic benefits of chocolate.
The plant bearing the cocoa bean contains high levels of plant nutrients known as flavonoids. The nutrients help the plant repair cell damage and resist environmental toxins by preventing oxidation. When we consume foods rich in these nutrients, we also benefit from the protective power of the antioxidants. These nutrients help the body resist cell damage caused by free radicals formed by environmental contaminants and bodily processes. Flavanols, the primary flavonoid in chocolate, can also benefit vascular health by improving blood flow to the heart and brain, lowering blood pressure, and preventing blood clots by making platelets less sticky. It is important to note that a number of different foods contain these name nutrients, including apples, nuts, cranberries, tea, and red wine.
Chocolate that is highly processed loses much of its flavanols. These chocolates also contain other ingredients that add fat, sugar, and calories that negate the health benefits of the cocoa. To get the maximum health benefits, it is best to choose dark chocolate that has been minimally processed. You should also keep the amount in moderation by limiting intake to approximately 1 ounce a few times a week.
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