Keep Your Dark Chocolate Addiction

By Medical Discovery News

Aug. 18, 2012

Cocoa pods

Though word has spread that eating dark chocolate is good for the heart, a new report offers suggestions on just how much a person should eat. Using mathematical modeling, the study indicates 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of dark chocolate a day reduces the odds of heart attacks and strokes in people at high risk. That’s a medium-sized bar containing a minimum of 70 percent cocoa.

Researchers from Monash University in Australia predict eating this amount of chocolate daily over a 10-year period would prevent 70 nonfatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people. Their study, published in the “British Medical Journal,” reaffirms dark chocolate’s ability to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which can be attributed to flavonoids found in high amounts in cacao beans.

Don’t be confused by the term cacao since that’s the original name of the bean, which comes from the Theobroma cacao tree. Over time, cacao became anglicized and began to be replaced with the term cocoa. The terms are interchangeable, yet the beans are technically cacao beans and the processed powder and butter derived from the beans are called cocoa.

Processed cocoa products do not contain the heart healthy flavonoids found in raw cacao beans. Unprocessed cacao has a strong, pungent taste that when fermented and alkalized loses more and more flavonoids with each step. Most of the heavily processed cocoa products also contain high amounts of unhealthy fats and sugars, so it’s important to look for chocolate devoid of these ingredients and with at least 70 percent cocoa.

Eating a chocolate bar each day is probably not realistic, which is fine since many other foods also contain flavonoids, such as many fruits and vegetables and certain beverages including tea, coffee, beer, and wine. Over 4,000 flavonoids are known and some studies suggest this antioxidant has antiviral, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor properties.

During normal cellular activity, cells produce or are exposed to what are called reactive oxygen species, a type of free radical. A radical is an atom or group of atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons. Even though they’re formed as a necessary component in a variety of normal biochemical reactions, in excess, they damage cells, especially molecules in them that carry genetic information. Oxidant damage has been linked to cancer, aging, cardiovascular disease, ischemic injury, inflammation, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

According to the Monash study, choosing to consume quality dark chocolate in combination with exercise and other healthy foods can help someone at high risk possibly avoid a heart attack or stroke.  Researchers calculated that investing just $42 per person per year on dark chocolate related health strategies including advertising and promotion can significantly reduce a population’s cardiovascular risks. The findings could be valuable to a country such as Australia where 30 percent of its population are at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

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