2.24.2011

"Chocolate's Startling Health Benefits"

Startling to you, maybe, John Robbins! Not to me!

So you don't have to read the whole Huffington Post blog post ("Chocolate's Startling Health Benefits," John Robbins, Feb. 22, 2011), I'll tell you that chocolate's health benefits include:
  • "Chocolate, it turns out, is particularly rich in polyphenols....The polyphenols in chocolate inhibit oxidation of LDL cholesterol....One of the causes of atherosclerosis is blood platelets clumping together, a process called aggregation. The polyphenols in chocolate inhibit this clumping, reducing the risks of atherosclerosis."
  • "High blood pressure is a well known risk factor for heart disease. It is also one of the most common causes of kidney failure, and a significant contributor to many kinds of dementia and cognitive impairment. Studies have shown that consuming a small bar of dark chocolate daily can reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension.
  • "[C]hocolate thins the blood and performs the same anti-clotting activity as aspirin. 'Our work supports the concept that the chronic consumption of cocoa may be associated with improved cardiovascular health,' said UC Davis researcher Carl Keen.
  • "Chocolate is the richest known source of a little-known substance called theobromine, a close chemical relative of caffeine. Theobromine, like caffeine, and also like the asthma drug theophylline, belong to the chemical group known as xanthine alkaloids. Chocolate products contain small amounts of caffeine, but not nearly enough to explain the attractions, fascinations, addictions, and effects of chocolate. The mood enhancement produced by chocolate may be primarily due to theobromine."
  • "Chocolate also contains other substances with mood elevating effects. One is phenethylamine, which triggers the release of pleasurable endorphins and potentates the action of dopamine, a neurochemical associated with sexual arousal and pleasure. Phenethylamine is released in the brain when people become infatuated or fall in love."
  • Another substance found in chocolate is anandamide....It binds to the same receptor sites in the brain as cannabinoids -- the psychoactive constituents in marijuana -- and produces feelings of elation and exhilaration.
  • "[C]hocolate also boosts brain levels of serotonin."

Do you have to eat a ton of chocolate to get these effects? No.
  • "According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, adding only half an ounce of dark chocolate to an average American diet is enough to increase total antioxidant capacity 4 percent, and lessen oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Of course, to get the full effect, it is best to eat dark chocolate, which also has less sugar and fat added.

And more good news!
  • "As far as fats go, it's the added fats that are the difficulty, not the natural fat (called cocoa butter) found in chocolate. Cocoa butter is high in saturated fat, so many people assume that it's not good for your cardiovascular system. But most of the saturated fat content in cocoa butter is stearic acid, which numerous studies have shown does not raise blood cholesterol levels. In the human body, it acts much like the monounsaturated fat in olive oil."

Happy chocolating! (I knew that I would find a use for this blog category again.)