With the overindulgence of chocolate eggs and bunnies this past weekend I thought I would share some “good news” around chocolate.
Although calorically dense, cocoa and high quality dark chocolate can offer many health benefits.
Cocoa beans contain polyphenols (similar to those found in wine) with antioxidant properties that are health promoting. These compounds are called flavonoids and include catechins, epicatechins, and procyandins.
It also is rich in phenylethylamine that is thought to promote those “feel good” hormones. Cocoa beans are rich in minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and maganese and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid
A recent systematic review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed 42 RCT trials (1300 subjects) and found that chronic chocolate or cocoa intake had a direct benefit on serum insulin, systolic/diastolic blood pressure and a marginal benefit on LDL and HDL cholesterol. Although trials reviewed were short term (18 wks or less), researchers concluded the potential health benefits were mainly attributed to cocoa’s flavanols concentration.
Another new study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that more frequent chocolate consumption was associated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI) in almost 1,000 healthy men and women (ages 20 – 85 yrs). While the type and amount of chocolate were not assessed, the study concluded that cocoa derived flavanols may have a positive effect on cellular metabolism within lean muscle mass (our calorie burning/fueling site). Even with the concentrated calories in chocolate moderate consumption could promote a healthier body composition. Interesting!
From a skin health perspective, previous studies have shown the unique nutritional properties of cocoa have been shown to help protect skin from UV oxidative stress and dehydration when supplemented in a functional beverage. When compared against a the low flavanol beverage group (27mg.d), the higher flavanol supplemented group of women (326 mg/day) experienced improved endogenous photoprotection, dermal blood circulation and visually enhanced the appearance of their skin (both hydration and texture.)
Yours in Health & Beauty,
Golomb, A., et al. "Association between more frequent chocolate consumption and lower body mass index." Arch Intern Med (2012):519-21.
Hooper, L, et al. “Effects of chocolate, cocoa, and flavan-3-ols on cardiovascular health: asystematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials.” Am J Clin Nutr. (2012) Mar;95(3)
Neukam, K., et al. “Consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa acutely increases microcirculation in human skin.” Eur J Nutr (2007): 53-6.