Celebrate chocolate’s health benefits

Eating chocolate has some surprising health benefits. Image: Shutterstock

There are several new chocolate discoveries on the menu today.

The American Chemical Society is hosting a celebration of scientific discoveries about chocolate. The symposium titled “Cocoa: Science and Technology” features 18 reports from international experts on the key ingredient in chocolate (cocoa) and its emerging health benefits.

“Chocolate is one of the foods with the greatest appeal to the general population,” said Sunil Kochhar, a symposium participant from the Nestle Research Centre in Lausanne, Switzerland. “The luscious aroma, taste and textures of chocolate have delighted the senses of people in many parts of the world for centuries and make it a well-known comfort food.”

Kochhar has conducted a study examining the biochemical basis of chocolate’s reputation as a comfort food. The results indicated that eating about an ounce and a half (42.5 grams) of dark chocolate per day reduced levels of stress hormones and emotional anxiety indicators in people who felt stressed-out.

“The flavonoids and other ingredients in chocolate with beneficial health effects originate in cocoa,” Kochhar explained. “In making chocolate, cocoa seeds undergo natural fermentation before being processed into key ingredients for making chocolate — namely cocoa fat and cocoa powder.”

Scientists from Missouri State University in the US suggest that chocolate may be useful in treating diseases that involve trigeminal nerve disorders, such as migraines. The study found evidence that cocoa contains biologically active ingredients that soothe the nerve’s excitability, which is suggested to be a probable cause of these disorders.

Many of the chemicals in chocolate appear to have health benefits- the polyphenols in chocolate have been linked to health benefits for smokers and those suffering from inflammation, while the flavenoids lower blood pressure and strengthen the mitochondria in our cells. Epicatechin, a beneficial antioxidant that is especially rich in dark chocolate, has been suggested to strengthen cell membranes and may offer protection from some forms of cardiovascular disease.

Even some animals may benefit from eating chocolate. A study from the University of Muenster in Germany has discovered that feeding chocolate to pigs, who have very similar gastro-intestinal tracts to humans, helped protect their livers from damage that can lead to liver disease.

Source: Eureka Alert

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