HEALTH BENEFITS OF CHOCOLATE AND RAW CACAO

Benefits of Chocolate – Antioxidant levels of cacao powder, nibs, and dark chocolate
Graph design from information at Natural News: Examining the Properties of Chocolate and Cacao for Health. Source: Source: US department of Agriculture/Journal of American Chemical Society and Brunswick Laboratories MA, USA

WebMD » Chocolate Lovers: 6 Reasons to Cheer
Short and sweet (ha!) feature from WebMD on the goodness of chocolate. From article: “Italian researchers wanted to know whether chocolate truly is an aphrodisiac. In a survey of 143 women published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, those who ate chocolate every day seemed to have more sex drive, better lubrication, and an easier time reaching orgasm.”
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Chocolate and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review
Chocolate again scores well in a literature review for protective effects against heart disease. From the article published in Nutrition & Metabolism (Jan 3, 2006,) “The body of short-term randomized feeding trials suggests cocoa and chocolate may exert beneficial effects on cardiovascular risk via effects on lowering blood pressure, anti-inflammation, anti-platelet function, higher HDL, decreased LDL oxidation” and “Meanwhile, the large body of prospective studies of flavonoids suggests the flavonoid content of chocolate may reduce risk of cardiovascular mortality. Our updated meta-analysis indicates that intake of flavonoids may lower risk of CHD mortality”.
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Cocoa Intake, Blood Pressure, and Cardiovascular Mortality
Another study, from the Archives of Internal Medicine February 2006.
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Plasma antioxidants from chocolate: Dark chocolate may offer its consumers health benefits the milk variety cannot match.
Chocolate has been shown to have excellent antioxidant levels. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values of dark chocolate (13,120 per 100 grams) exceed those of prunes (5, 700); blueberries (2,400), strawberries (1,540) and spinach (1,260). Adding milk to chocolate does not help, in fact, it seems to block the activity of the phytochemicals responsible for the powerful antioxidant capacity of cacao. The August 28, 2003 issue of the journal Nature has a great article discussing the power of dark chocolate, of which, cacao is the key ingredient.
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Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine.
Cacao, ‘the food of the gods’ has received considerable attention lately as it has been found to contain one of the highest levels of antioxidants on the planet, exceeding red wine, green tea, and other exotic fruits and vegetables. Recently published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry (December 3, 2003) is an article titled “Cocoa has more phenolic phytochemicals and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas and red wine”.
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Is Candy Dandy for Your Heart? Recent research has cast chocolate in a new antioxidant-rich light.
Additional information about the health effects of raw chocolate from “Todays Chemist”.
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Administration of dark chocolate is followed by significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure.
Cacao is showing benefits for reduction in blood pressure and greater insulin sensitivity in healthy persons. In an article titled “Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2005, insulin sensitivity was improved almost 12% in 15 test subjects given dark chocolate and systolic blood pressure dropped almost 6% among the same group.
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Suppressive effects of cacao polyphenols on LDL oxidation and the development of atherosclerosis in rabbits.
More testing shows that the antioxidant effects of cacao are helpful in arteriosclerosis. Testing with laboratory rabbits showed, “The antioxidative effect of Cacao Liquor Polyphenols was superior to those of the well-known antioxidative substances, vitamin C, vitamin E and probucol.” Arteriosclerosis, April 2005.
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Flavanol-rich cocoa drink lowers free radical oxidative damage in humans.
Cacao may help lower the oxidative stress of strenuous activities – thus helping athletes to recover. Recent research “conclude[s] that dietary flavanols, using cocoa drink as example, can lower the plasma level of F(2)-isoprostanes, indicators of in vivo lipid peroxidation.” Free Radical Biological Medicine, August 2004.
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Chocolate’s polyphenols on bowel health, antioxidant activity, and hydroxyl radical production.
Free radical decreases have been noticed in subjects eating chocolate. In one trial there was a 16% drop in the amount of expelled free-radicals, indicating a higher antioxidant level in the subjects taking chocolate. Found in Nutr. Cancer, Vol 47, Iss 2, 2003.
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Ingestion of proanthocyanidins from cacao inhibits diabetes-induced cataract formation.
The procyanidin found in Cacao have also been shown to inhibit cataract formation in diabetic lab rats. Experimental Biological Medicine, January, 2004.