Your Valentine can thank you yet again in retrospect for the Valentine Day chocolates based on more data extolling the virtues of high cacao dark chocolate, casting more light in which chocoholics can bask.
A team of researchers at the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition lab say they've turned up more evidence of chocolate's powerful antioxidant benefits. The findings, published in Chemistry Central Journal and funded by the chocolate giant in Hershey, Pa., also showed that dark chocolate and cocoa powder had a "greater antioxidant capacity" and a "greater total flavanol and polyphenol content than the fruit juices," according to the authors. Antioxidants -- found in fruits like grapes, strawberries and pomegranates, as well as some juices, dark chocolate, green tea and red wine -- are agents that fight cell-damaging free radicals. Those compounds are associated with a host of health problems and can take a toll on the body as we age.
When comparing the levels of polyphenols and flavanols in cocoa powder to those in fruit powder used to make juice, they found more in the cocoa, "gram for gram," they say. "Cacao seeds are a 'Super Fruit' providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition," gushes the paper's senior author Debra Miller in a press release.
Additionally, a Harvard study published last year suggested that eating a small amount of high-quality dark chocolate one to three times a month may help stave off heart failure in women, according to the researchers who reported their findings in last year’s Aug. 17 issue of Circulation: Heart Failure.
"At least for women, consumption of chocolate seems to be associated with a decreased risk of heart failure, but the protective effect was only seen with relatively small amounts of consumption, less than one serving a day," said senior study author Dr. Murray Mittleman.
Previous studies found that moderate amounts of chocolate did appear to lower blood pressure.
"The beneficial effects on blood pressure are likely an important part of the mechanisms of what we're observing," said Mittleman, who is director of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Research Unit at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
In the study, the chocolate-eating habits of 31,823 Swedish women, aged 48 to 83, reported over a period of nine years. Women who ate one to three servings of chocolate (20 to 30 grams) a month had a 32 percent reduced risk of heart failure, compared to women who did not eat the sweet regularly. More chocolate than that (one to two servings a week), and the benefit disappeared, while much more than that (three to six servings a week), and the risk actually increased by 23 percent.
The chocolate measured in this study was mostly high-quality dark chocolate without a lot of added sugar, though it was commercially available, he said. And the higher the cocoa content, the better. The cocoa content of the chocolate consumed by the women in this study was about 30 percent whereas, in the United States, dark chocolate is only required to contain 15 percent cocoa solids.
Chocolate lovers REJOICE, but let your glee be in moderation. We should not interpret the findings in either of these research projects as license to “super size” all the high cacao dark chocolate we can find based on it “being good for us”. Over indulgence has a negative effect. It’s all about balance. Good news is: CHOCOLATE IS IN!
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