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Why is dark chocolate “healthy”?

  • Health benefits only occur when there is 70% cacao in the chocolate’s content.
  • Cacao consumption can reduce stress, strengthen the immune system and improve memory.  

For all the chocolate-lovers out there, binge on because a new study has further confirmed its pre-existing benefits.

Have you ever wondered why dark chocolate has always been the ‘healthy’ option when it comes to these sweet treats? Here’s why.

Two new studies have surfaced recently, which pinpoints to us the exact reasons for dark chocolates’ positive reputations. This can be traced back to the cacao concentration that makes up the majority of the delicacies’ content. Let’s begin with what we already know.

According to LiveScience, flavonoids are a sort of phytonutrient that can be found in many vegetables and fruits. Hence, cacao itself, being a potent source of flavonoids can only mean that it is indeed, nutritious since flavonoids are also antioxidants.

As such, its consumption leads to an anti-inflammatory effect in our bodies. This essentially means that there are plenty of beneficial aspects towards our immune systems. The consumption of flavonoid food has also been linked to a lower risk of contracting neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer.

The new research, on the other hand, studies the matter from a different standpoint. Lee S. Berk, the principal investigator of the School of Allied Health Professions and Loma Linda University explains as follows.
“[This research is] the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time,” as reported by Science Daily.
Berk has provided a different explanation for this finding.

“We have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content” — that is, “the more sugar [there is], the happier we are.”

Yet again, the most recent findings have revealed that the true health benefits are not merely derived from the sugar contents. Instead, it lies behind the cacao concentration amidst the sugary treat.

“These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity, and other beneficial effects.”

These findings were publicly disclosed at the Experimental Biology 2018 meeting that took place in San Diego, California just this week.

The results show that the minimum percentage of cacao concentration that has to be present in the piece of chocolate you ingest in order to really enjoy these benefits is about seventy. There were two studies that supported this claim. The first study says that having 70 percent of cacao in your chocolate will “[up-regulate] multiple intracellular signaling pathways involved in T-cell activation, cellular immune response, and genes involved in neural signaling sensory perception.”

The second study, conversely, finds that the same amount “enhances neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain benefits”.

Either way, the regular consumption of seventy percent cacao will only do you good. It strengthens our immune systems, improve our memories as well as lowering our stress levels.

Nonetheless, it is always important to consider the source of these findings. In October, Vox pointed out that a number of these alleged findings were actually funded by companies that are producing chocolate. This subsequently leads to questions over the credibility of these studies, especially seeing as chocolates, a sugar-filled treat has over the years become categorized as a healthy option.

Nonetheless, the real debate is mostly over the fact that regardless of the possible benefits, it may still be a stretch to call it ‘healthy’ altogether, as Bustle says. Yet again, “high-quality cocoa science”, as phrased by Vox, is still worth exploring one way or the other.JoAnn Manson is a nutrition researcher at Harvard, who has expressed the following to the outlet.

“[Cocoa] has looked promising in small-scale randomized controlled trials and in observational studies, so it’s worth moving now to more conclusive and large-scale randomized controlled trials.”

Needless to say, all in all, consumers should absorb this information with a grain of salt, like everything else that’s been showcased by the media.

Featured image via flickr/ Marco Verch

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