Chocolate … offers more than wishful thinking

The Road to Recovery

always runs Smoother with Chocolate………Mmmmmm!

It’s more than wishful thinking — chocolate can be good for you. Studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. That’s because chocolate comes from cacao beans (or cocoa beans), which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients. Most of the studies to date highlight dark chocolate’s health values because it has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more flavanol antioxidants.

Emerging Science

Buoyed by strong evidence of cocoa’s cardiovascular health benefits, researchers now are examining its effect on a wide range of ailments in the hopes of confirming what the Mayans knew long ago: cocoa has medicinal value.

Areas under study include everything from improving memory to fighting cancer. What’s driving the interest in cocoa and dark chocolate is its rich concentration of antioxidants, natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables that may help protect cells and reduce the risk of disease. Dark chocolate and cocoa are particularly rich in antioxidants called flavanols, which are also found in green tea and red wine.

Scientific advances have meant researchers are now able to isolate and identify these key compounds that may be vital to our health.


Cancer Research

Two recent lab studies on cocoa and the growth of cancer cells in test tubes have shown promising results. One study showed that cocoa reduced the growth rate of colon cancer cells. Another study showed that breast cancer cells stopped multiplying when combined with specific flavanols. Cancer is a complex and multi-faceted disease and many more studies are needed to determine if the flavanols or other compounds in cocoa may be useful in reducing the risk of cancer.


Auto Immune System

Some diseases, like arthritis, are caused by the overactive response of the body’s immune system. Flavanols naturally found in dark chocolate and cocoa have been shown to suppress compounds that create such immune responses in the body. But it’s too early to tell whether cocoa can help control chronic ailments like arthritis and auto-immune disease.


Brain Power

When rats were given supplements of the flavonoid antioxidants similar to those found in chocolate, researchers observed that they performed better on memory-testing water maze tests. Another study using a catechin antioxidant similar to one found in chocolate showed improved memory for mice with previous brain problems. More studies are needed to determine whether this effect will be seen in humans.

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