Could Chocolate Help Prevent Diabetes and Obesity?

Chocolate May Improve Your Health in Dozens of Ways

If the possibility that consuming chocolate may help you prevent diabetes and stay slim doesn’t excite you, perhaps the fact that accumulating scientific research has linked its consumption to over 40 distinct health benefits will.

Among the most heavily researched is its link to heart health. For instance, when diabetic patients were given a special high-flavanol cocoa drink for one month, it brought their blood vessel function from severely impaired to normal. The improvement was actually as large as has been observed with exercise and many common diabetic medications.

Small amounts of dark chocolate can also cut your risk of heart attack because, like aspirin, chocolate has a biochemical effect that reduces the clumping of platelets, which cause blood to clot. Platelet clumping can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack.

Another one of the ways chocolate may provide cardiovascular benefit is by assisting with nitric oxide metabolism.  Nitric oxide protects your heart by relaxing your blood vessels and thereby lowering your blood pressure.

However, nitric oxide production produces adverse reactions and toxic metabolites, which must be neutralized by your body so they don’t result in oxidative damage to your blood vessel lining (by peroxynitrite oxidation and nitration reactions). Cocoa polyphenols protect your body from these metabolites and help counter the typical age-related decline in nitric oxide production. The following table highlights even more benefits conferred by the cocoa bean.

Anti-inflammatory Anti-carcinogenic Anti-thrombotic, including improving endothelial function Lowers Alzheimer’s risk
Anti-diabetic and anti-obesity Reduction in C-reactive protein Cardioprotective, including lowering blood pressure, improving lipid profile, and helping prevent atrial fibrillation Improved liver function for those with cirrhosis
Neuroprotective Improves gastrointestinal flora Reduces stress hormones Reduces symptoms of glaucoma and cataracts
Slows progression of periodontitis Improves exercise endurance May help extend lifespan Protects against preeclampsia in pregnant women

Which Type of Chocolate Is Best for Your Health?

The term “chocolate” refers to the solid food or candy made from a preparation of cacao seeds (typically roasted). If the cacao seeds are not roasted, then you have “raw chocolate,” which is also typically sweetened. It’s important to understand that consuming most commercially available milk chocolate candy is not going to give you the therapeutic benefits described above, as it contains both pasteurized milk and large quantities of sugar, which will significantly dampen its health benefits. White chocolate is also high in sugar and contains none of the phytonutrients, so it is not a good choice either.

The closer your cocoa is to its natural raw state, the higher its nutritional value. Ideally, your chocolate or cocoa should be consumed raw (cacao). When selecting chocolate, you can optimize its nutritional punch by looking for higher cacao and lower sugar content.

In general, the darker the chocolate, the higher the cacao. However, cacao is fairly bitter, so the higher the percentage cacao, the more bitter it is (the flavanols are what make the chocolate bitter, so manufacturers often remove them. But, it’s those flavanols that are responsible for many of chocolate’s health benefits). To counteract the bitterness, most chocolate is sweetened, so it’s a matter of balancing nutritional benefit with palatability.

Although raw cacao is the most nutritious form, most of the health studies to date involve consumption of cocoa or chocolate, not raw cacao. And the results are STILL significantly positive. This fact suggests a good portion of the nutritional benefit of chocolate is retained after processing. Your goal then is to find a chocolate that’s as minimally processed as possible, but still palatable. You don’t want to eliminate too many of the health benefits by eating a product that contains a lot of sugar and chemicals. Choose chocolate with a cocoa/cacao percentage of about 70 or higher. If you can tolerate the flavor of raw cacao, however, then that’s the absolute best option. Dark chocolate – as high in cacao and as bitter as you can stand — is your best option.

Eat Chocolate Two to Three Times a Day for the Most Benefit

Download Interview Transcript

In the video above, Dr. Beatrice Golomb discusses how to identify a high-quality chocolate and how to determine your optimal chocolate “dose.” In general, it seems preferable to consume smaller amounts of chocolate at more frequent intervals, much like the principle of split dosing for supplements, in order to ensure a steadier stream of nutrients in your bloodstream.

According to Dr. Golomb, studies show daily chocolate consumption in divided doses (two to three times per day) is probably beneficial, as long as you aren’t going overboard in quantity, and as long as you’re eating high-quality chocolate.


Click here to read Dr. Mercola’s complete post
article source: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/21/chocolate-flavanols.aspx
photo source: https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8031/8041853745_e2d244c9b0_q_d.jpg
credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sackton/8041853745/

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