Thursday, March 29, 2012

Health benefits of chocolate

I'm always happy to read research that points out the health benefits of chocolate.  If you enjoy chocolate, you may enjoy reading this :=D

Photo by Chocolate Reviews
A 15 day study performed on hypertensive human volunteers evaluated the effects of eating dark chocolate or white chocolate on various circulatory measurements.  The patients who ate the dark chocolate showed an 11-point (mmHg) reduction in systolic blood pressure and a 6.2-point (mmHg) decrease in diastolic blood pressure.  The participants who ate white chocolate showed no change in blood pressure.

These researchers also looked at measurements of insulin sensitivity and found that after consuming dark chocolate for 15 days, the fasting insulin levels declined by 29% along with a 6% reduction in fasting glucose. Again, no improvements were seen in the white chocolate group.

Endothelial function was also measured and the dark chocolate group also saw an improvement to almost normal levels, while no improvements with white chocolate.

Photo by Peluna
Further longer term studies, including a meta-analysis of 15 studies ranging from 2 - 18 weeks long, have corroborated these results, with the conclusion that dark chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity.

A concern regarding chocolate intake has been whether these health benefits would be offset by increased weight gain, or serum lipids but these parameters remained unchanged.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this research comes from one of the German scientists who points out that small amounts of dark chocolate convey a similar BP lowering potential to  major dietary modification techniques. Long-term adherence to complex major dietary modification is often low, however "adoption of consuming small amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa into the diet is a dietary modification that is easy to adhere to and therefore may be a promising behavior approach to lower blood pressure in individuals with above-optimal blood pressure."

I'll be blogging about additional health benefits of chocolate again soon, but in the meantime, if you fancy some chocolate, chose a bar of dark chocolate with more than 65% cocoa, and find one that has less than 10g sugar per serving. And then a typical serving size should be about 20g - one or two squares. Or else add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to baking or smoothies or....

The photo above is some chocolates I made this week for some friends coming round on Saturday.  It's 70% cocoa and on top are freeze dried raspberries on the left hand side and a little secret on the right hand side ones. I can't tell you about that until after my friends have had them!


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