Chocolate Affects Health

By Heartspring Staff

If you ever wanted an excuse to eat chocolate, here's the research showing how dark chocolate provides healthy effects on the body, as well as the brain.

A Significant Source of Phytonutrients

Cocoa and chocolate products have been delicacies for hundreds of years. Only recently have they been recognized as significant sources of phytochemicals with healthful effects. These foods are among the most concentrated sources of the procyanidin flavonoids, catechin and epicatechin. Recent studies have shown that these polyphenols are absorbed from the intestine of animals and humans with epicatechin absorbed much more than catechin.

These flavonoids have potent antioxidant and antiplatelet activities following consumption of cocoa or chocolate. - Journal Amercian College Nutrition. 2001 Oct Keen CL. Department of Nutrition, University of California.

Cocoa powder and dark chocolate may favorably affect cardiovascular disease risk status by modestly reducing LDL oxidation susceptibility, increasing serum total antioxidant capacity and HDL-cholesterol concentrations, and not adversely affecting prostaglandins. - Effects of cocoa powder and dark chocolate on LDL oxidative susceptibility and prostaglandin concentrations in humans. - American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001 Nov. Wan Y, Vinson JA, Etherton TD, Proch J, Lazarus SA, Kris-Etherton PM. Graduate Program in Nutrition, The Pennsylvania State University

Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults.

Engler MB, Engler MM, Chen CY, Malloy MJ, Browne A, Chiu EY, Kwak HK, Milbury P, Paul SM, Blumberg J, Mietus-Snyder ML. Laboratory of Cardiovascular Physiology, Department of Physiological Nursing, School of Nursing, University of Claifornia, San Francisco Journal of American College Nutrition. 2004 Jun

Dark chocolate derived from the plant (Theobroma cacao) is a rich source of flavonoids. Cardioprotective effects including antioxidant properties, inhibition of platelet activity, and activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase have been ascribed to the cocoa flavonoids.

CONCLUSION: Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and is associated with an increase in plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults. No changes in oxidative stress measures, lipid profiles, blood pressure, body weight or BMI were seen. PMID:15190043

Cocoa and chocolate flavonoids: implications for cardiovascular health.

Steinberg FM, Bearden MM, Keen CL. Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA. Journal of American Diet Association. 2003 Feb;103(2):215-23.

This paper offers a review of current scientific research regarding the potential cardiovascular health benefits of flavonoids found in cocoa and chocolate. Recent reports indicate that the main flavonoids found in cocoa, flavan-3-ols and their oligomeric derivatives, procyanidins, have a variety of beneficial actions, including antioxidant protection and modulation of vascular homeostasis. These findings are supported by similar research on other flavonoid-rich foods. Other constituents in cocoa and chocolate that may also influence cardiovascular health are briefly reviewed. The lipid content of chocolate is relatively high; however, one third of the lipid in cocoa butter is composed of the fat stearic acid, which exerts a neutral cholesterolemic response in humans.

"Cocoa and chocolate contribute to trace mineral intake, which is necessary for optimum functioning of all biologic systems and for vascular tone."

Thus, multiple components in chocolate, particularly flavonoids, can contribute to the complex interplay of nutrition and health. Applications of this knowledge include recommendations by health professionals to encourage individuals to consume a wide range of phytochemical-rich foods, which can include dark chocolate in moderate amounts. Publication Types: · Review · Review, TutorialPMID:12589329

Journal of Nutrition. 2000 Aug;130(8S Suppl):2115S-9S.

A dose-response effect from chocolate consumption on plasma epicatechin and oxidative damage.

Wang JF, Schramm DD, Holt RR, Ensunsa JL, Fraga CG, Schmitz HH, Keen CL. Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, California 95616-8669, USA.

Evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that a diet high in plant foods and rich in polyphenols is inversely associated with a risk for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Chocolate, like red wine and green tea, is a polyphenol-rich food, primarily containing procyanidin polyphenols. These polyphenols are hypothesized to provide cardioprotective effects due to their ability to scavenge free-radicals and inhibit lipid oxidation. Herein, we demonstrate that 2 h after the ingestion of a procyanidin-rich chocolate containing 5.3 mg total procyanidin/g, of which 1.3 mg/g was (-)-epicatechin (epicatechin), plasma levels of epicatechin increased 133 ± 27, 258 ± 29 and 355 ± 49 nmol/L in individuals who consumed 27, 53 and 80 g of chocolate, respectively. That the rise in plasma epicatechin levels was functionally significant is suggested by observations of trends for dose-response increases in the plasma antioxidant capacity and decreases in plasma lipid oxidation products. The above data support the theories that in healthy adults, 1) a positive relationship exists between procyanidin consumption and plasma procyanidin concentration and 2) the rise in plasma epicatechin contributes to the ability of plasma to scavenge free-radicals and to inhibit lipid peroxidation. PMID:10917932

Journal of Nutrition Science Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2000 Aug;46(4):199-204.

Antioxidant effects of polyphenols in chocolate on low-density lipoprotein both in vitro and ex vivo.

Hirano R, Osakabe N, Iwamoto A, Matsumoto A, Natsume M, Takizawa T, Igarashi O, Itakura H, Kondo K. International Medicine I, National Defense Medical College, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan.

Cacao is rich in polyphenols such as (-)-epicatechin, and a colored component of cacao (cacao-red) is polyphenol, which is an antioxidant. These properties stimulated an investigation of the effects of cacao liquor polyphenols (CLP) on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation. The 2.2 '-azobis (4-methoxy-2,4- dimethyl valeronitrile) (AMVN-CH2O) - induced oxidizability of LDL was assessed by monitoring the absorbance at 234 nm. In vitro. 0.1-0.5 mg/dL CLP prolonged the oxidation lag time of LDL in a dose-dependent manner. Compared with the controls, it was prolonged 1.7-fold in the presence of 0.1 mg/dL CLP, 2.9-fold at 0.2 mg/dL, 3.8-fold at 0.3 mg/dL, 5.4-fold at 0.4 mg/dL, and 6.4-fold at 0.5 mg/dL. Furthermore, we enlisted 13 male volunteers to consume 35 g delipidated cocoa. Venous blood samples were taken before and at 2 h and 4 h after consuming the cocoa. The oxidation lag time of LDL before cocoa ingestion was 59.0 ± 6.3 min, but it was prolonged at 2 h after cocoa (68.3 ± 6.0 min); before returning to the initial lag time (61.7 ± 5.7 min) before consumption. Thus we have shown that cocoa inhibited LDL oxidation both in vitro and ex vivo. PMID:11185658

Nutr Cancer. 2003;47(2):131-5.

Chocolate consumption, fecal water antioxidant activity, and hydroxyl radical production.

Record IR, McInerney JK, Noakes M, Bird AR. CSIRO Health Sciences and Nutrition, BC Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

As part of a larger study into the effects of polyphenols derived from chocolate on bowel health we have compared the effects of consumption of chocolate containing either 200 mg of flavanols and related procyanidins or a similar chocolate containing less than 10 mg of polyphenols on fecal free-radical production and antioxidant activity in 18 volunteers. In a double-blind crossover trail volunteers consumed chocolate for two 4-wk periods separated by a 4-wk washout period. During the time the volunteers consumed the chocolate they also consumed a low-polyphenol diet. Free-radical production in the fecal water was lowered from 122 ± 10 micromol/l/h to 94 ± 9 micromol/l/h (P = 0.009) when the high procyanidin chocolate diet was consumed and from 117 ± 14 micromol/l/h to 86 ± 12 micromol/l/h when the low procyanidin chocolate was consumed (P = 0.014). Fecal water antioxidant capacity measured by either the Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity or ferric reducing ability of plasma procedure was not significantly affected. Consumption of either chocolate reduced the production of free-radicals in fecal water. This suggests that some component of the chocolate other than the flavanols and related procyanidins may have been effective. PMID:15087264

Journal of Nutrition. 2000 Aug;130(8S Suppl):2109S-14S.Comment in: ·Journal of Nutrition. 2001 Mar;131(3):834-5.

Epicatechin in human plasma: in vivo determination and effect of chocolate consumption on plasma oxidation status.

Rein D, Lotito S, Holt RR, Keen CL, Schmitz HH, Fraga CG. Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.

Diets that are rich in plant foods have been associated with a decreased risk for specific disease processes and certain chronic diseases. In addition to essential macronutrients and micronutrients, the flavonoids in a variety of plant foods may have health-enhancing properties. Chocolate is a food that is known to be rich in the flavan-3-ol epicatechin and procyanidin oligomers. However, the bioavailability and the biological effects of the chocolate flavonoids are poorly understood. To begin to address these issues, we developed a method based on HPLC coupled with electrochemical (coulometric) detection to determine the physiological levels of epicatechin, catechin and epicatechin dimers. This method allows for the determination of 20 pg (69 fmol) of epicatechin, which translates to plasma concentrations as low as 1 nmol/L. We next evaluated the absorption of epicatechin, from an 80-g semisweet chocolate (procyanidin-rich chocolate) bolus. By 2 h after ingestion, there was a 12-fold increase in plasma epicatechin, from 22 to 257 nmol/L (P < 0.01). Consistent with the antioxidant properties of epicatechin, within the same 2-h period, there was a significant increase of 31% in plasma total antioxidant capacity (P < 0.04) and a decrease of 40% in plasma 2-thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (P < 0.01). Plasma epicatechin and plasma antioxidant capacity approached baseline values by 6 h after ingestion. These results show that it is possible to determine basal levels of epicatechin in plasma. The data support the concept that The consumption of chocolate can result in significant increases in plasma epicatechin concentrations and decreases in plasma baseline oxidation products. Publication Types: · Clinical TrialPMID:10917931

Journal of Nutrition. 2002 Jul;132(7):1825-9.

Flavonoids of cocoa inhibit recombinant human 5-lipoxygenase.

Schewe T, Kuhn H, Sies H. Institut fur Physiologische Chemie I, Heinrich-Heine-Universitat Dusseldorf, Germany.

(-)-Epicatechin and its related oligomers, the procyanidins, are present in sizable amounts in some cocoas and chocolates. Intake of flavonoid-rich chocolate in humans has been reported to increase the plasma level of (-)-epicatechin and concomitantly to significantly decrease the plasma level of pro inflammatory cysteinyl leukotrienes. Because leukotrienes are formed via the 5-lipoxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism, we examined whether 5-lipoxygenase is a possible target for the flavonoids of cocoa. Recombinant human 5-lipoxygenase was reacted with arachidonic acid and yielded a mixture of mainly 5-hydroperoxy-6E,8Z, 11Z,14Z-eicosatetraenoic acid (5-HpETE) and hydrolysis products of 5,6-leukotriene A(4) (LTA(4)). The formation of these products was significantly inhibited by (-)-epicatechin in a dose-dependent manner with 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC(50)) of 22 and 50 micromol/L, respectively. Among the procyanidin fractions isolated from the seeds of Theobroma cacao, only the dimer fraction and, to a lesser extent, the trimer through pentamer fractions exhibited comparable effects, whereas the larger procyanidins (hexamer through nonamer) were almost inactive. We conclude that (-)-epicatechin and its low-molecular procyanidins inhibit both dioxygenase and LTA(4) synthase activities of human 5-lipoxygenase and that this action may contribute to a putative anti-inflammatory effect of cocoa products. PMID:12097654

Methylxanthines are the psycho-pharmacologically active constituents of chocolate.

Smit HJ, Gaffan EA, Rogers PJ. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, 8 Woodland Road, BS8 1TN, Bristol, UK.

RATIONALE. Liking, cravings and addiction for chocolate ("chocoholism") are often explained through the presence of pharmacologically active compounds. However, mere "presence" does not guarantee psycho-activity. OBJECTIVES. Two double-blind, placebo-controlled studies measured the effects on cognitive performance and mood of the amounts of cocoa powder and methylxanthines found in a 50 g bar of dark chocolate. METHODS. In study 1, participants ( n=20) completed a test battery once before and twice after treatment administration. Treatments included 11.6 g cocoa powder and a caffeine and theobromine combination (19 and 250 mg, respectively). Study 2 ( n=22) comprised three post-treatment test batteries and investigated the effects of "milk" and "dark" chocolate levels of these methylxanthines. The test battery consisted of a long duration simple reaction time task, a rapid visual information processing task, and a mood questionnaire. RESULTS. Identical improvements on the mood construct "energetic arousal" and cognitive function were found for cocoa powder and the caffeine+theobromine combination versus placebo. In chocolate, both "milk chocolate" and "dark chocolate" methylxanthine doses improved cognitive function compared with "white chocolate". The effects of white chocolate did not differ significantly from those of water. CONCLUSIONS. A normal portion of chocolate exhibits psychopharmacological activity. The identical profile of effects exerted by cocoa powder and its methylxanthine constituents shows this activity to be confined to the combination of caffeine and theobromine. Methylxanthines may contribute to the popularity of chocolate; however, other attributes are probably much more important in determining chocolate's special appeal and in explaining related self-reports of chocolate cravings and "chocoholism".


Heartspring Staff are assistants of board reviewed doctors that are medical editors, authors, and reviewers, providing oversight for This article is currently undergoing doctor reveiw.


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