Loco for Cocoa – Better Nutrition




We’ve been hearing about the benefits of chocolate for some years, but the evidence just keeps mounting. Researchers from Harvard Medical School recently analyzed 21 controlled studies that followed a total of 2,575 people and presented their findings at a conference of the American Heart Association. The Harvard review confirmed earlier conclusions that cocoa flavonoids are the ingredient in chocolate that boosts well-being. Although many fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, the form in cocoa is particularly beneficial for the heart.

According to the Harvard analysis, short-term benefits experienced by people who regularly consumed flavonoid-rich cocoa included:

  • A decrease in blood pressure by up to 2 points, a significant health benefit.
  • A 1.5 percent increase in flow-mediated dilation, an indicator of a healthy blood vessel’s ability to relax. As a comparison, other research has found a similar improvement from a dramatic reduction
    of dietary salt.
  • An increase in “good” HDL cholesterol. In addition to heart benefits, higher HDL levels have been identified as a common denominator among people who live exceptionally long lives.
  • A decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol levels among those under age 50.
  • A decreased risk for diabetes, a contributor to heart disease.
  • Less insulin resistance, a precursor for both diabetes and heart disease.

The longer-term benefits of cocoa may be greater. In a 15-year study of 470 elderly Dutch men, risk of death from heart disease or other causes dropped by half and blood pressure was more than 3 points lower among those who consumed the most cocoa. A blood-pressure decrease of 3 points is estimated to reduce death from strokes by 8 percent, death from heart disease by 5 percent, and death from any cause by 4 percent. In the study, the top cocoa consumers ate about 4.2 grams of cocoa daily, the amount found in approximately 10 grams of dark chocolate (about one-third of an ounce). Overall, chocolate accounted for about two-thirds of this amount and the rest came from cocoa drinks, puddings, other foods, and supplements.


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