A recent study found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels - both common causes of artery clogging.
When scientists looked at the diets of 55,502 adults between the ages of 50 and 64 in a study recently published in the medical journal Heart, they found that compared to people who ate chocolate infrequently, those who dug in most often — i.e., ate a 1-ounce serving up to six times a week — had up to a 20 percent lower risk of experiencing a notable irregular heartbeat that's associated with a higher risk of stroke or heart attack during a 14-year period. It's the cocoa that's at play here: A combination of cocoa's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties makes blood less sticky and therefore reduce tissue scarring in the veins, which lowers electrical dysfunction that can throw off your heartbeat, according lead study author Elizabeth Mostofsky, ScD, an instructor in epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.
"Given the consistency of evidence across studies, as part of a heart-healthy diet, dark chocolate is a smart snack choice," Mostofsky says.
As Joyce Hendley reported in EatingWell Magazine, a large study out of Harvard, published in 2010, found that women who ate one or two ounces of chocolate a week had a 32 percent lower risk of heart failure than women who ate no chocolate. It’s possible that compounds in cocoa called flavanols help activate enzymes that release nitric oxide—a substance that helps widen and relax blood vessels. That allows blood to flow through the vessels more freely, reducing blood pressure. Nitric oxide is also involved in thinning blood and reducing its tendency to clot—lowering, potentially, the risk of stroke. Not only that, some of the key flavanols in cocoa, catechins and epicatechins (also found in red wine and green tea), are known to have heart-healthy, antioxidant effects—such as helping to prevent artery-threatening LDL cholesterol from converting to a more lethal, oxidized form.
Other studies show that eating chocolate prevents blood clots, which in turn reduces the risk of heart attacks. Blood platelets clump together more slowly in chocolate eaters, the studies say.
Eat one Hershey’s dark chocolate bar per week, and your risk of heart disease will decrease, a 2008 study found. About 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day keeps the blood inflammation-inducing proteins away. Just like your mother always told you.
Scientists tracked the effects of chocolate on cardiovascular health for a period of 10 years, and what they discovered was something of a phenomenon. It is estimated that those who ate chocolate once or twice a week have a 33 percent lower chance of developing heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions. Scientists believe that the powerful antioxidant properties of chocolate enable a type of blood clot barrier that helps in preserving heart health. Once again, it is important to eat the healthier varieties of chocolate: cocoa or dark chocolate that is low in sugar and fat, and high in flavonoids.
It reduces the risk of stroke…
Researchers in Finland have found that chocolate consumption lowers the risk of suffering a stroke - by a staggering 17 per cent average in the group of men they tested.
A Swedish study found that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate per week—about two bars worth—led to a 20 percent decrease in stroke risk among women. Chocolate contains flavonoids, whose antioxidant properties help fight strokes, the study’s author, Susanna Larsson, told HealthDay
Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of dark (70 per cent or more) choc provides 67 per cent of the RDA of iron. Chocolate is an unlikely source of iron
Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.
People that eat around 3 ounces of dark or high-flavanol chocolate everyday have a more normalized ratio of “good” (HDL) to “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Admittedly, scientists aren’t quite certain why this is, but it is believed that flavonoids play a particularly important role
The flavonols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage (YOU EAT IT, SILLY – and still need to put on sunscreen!).
In one study, women who drank a high-flavanol cocoa drink every day for three months showed a marked increase in blood flow to the epidermis. The results: skin density increased by 16 percent, thickness by 11 percent, moisture by 13 percent, and dryness was reduced by 42 percent! The potent antioxidant and flavanol properties of chocolate are thought to be the primary reasons why skin rejuvenates at such a fast rate.
“Some people say that I eat too many chocolate bars …” Remember that acne infomercial from the 90s? No? Well, it doesn’t matter. Not only does it not cause breakouts, it’s actually good for your skin! (Well, dark chocolate at least.) Flavonoids found in dark chocolate protect women’s skin from the sun’s UV rays, according to German scientists. But that doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen
Neuroscientist Will Clower says a small square of good choc melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones in the brain that say “I’m full”, cutting the amount of food you subsequently consume. Finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking.
In a more interesting finding, chocolate was discovered to aid in the enhancement of metabolic function. Subjects that ate approximately 10 tablespoons of cocoa powder daily showed a remarkable decrease in insulin levels, followed by a period of weight loss.
Flavanol prebiotics are thought to help prevent leaky gut, reduce inflammation, and stimulate metabolic function – three healthy outcomes that are generally indicative of weight loss.
A Finnish study found that chocolate reduced stress in expectant mothers, and that the babies of such mothers smiled more often than the offspring of non-chocolate-eating parents
Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins
Just the sight of chocolate can evoke a smile, according to a recent British survey. Sixty percent of women ranked chocolate as the most smile-worthy experience, edging out loved ones and other smiling people. (FYI, the top pick for men was a “Sunday roast.”)
Flavanols are thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflamatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University found that dark chocolate shields cells in your brain, and accordingly protects it from damage caused by stroke. Epicatechin, a compound found in chocolate, significantly reduced the brain damage in mice who suffered strokes, they found. Scientists at California's Salk Institute also found that epicatechin improved mice’s memories.
In a 2014 study, when researchers tested cognitive functioning among three groups of older adults before and after consuming drinks made with varying amounts of cocoa flavonols, phytochemical compounds, every day for eight weeks, all participants showed improvements in cognition testing. Experts chalk it up to the way flavonols improve blood circulation throughout the body and brain — which, in turn, could explain improvements in cognitive functioning. Although the most potent drinks contained the equivalent of about seven 300-gram chocolate bars, and no one is saying it's healthy to eat that much chocolate per day, the results are promising for chocolate lovers.
Additionally, “math power” and other brain functions are improved by consuming chocolate. According to a study by the U.K’s Northumbria University, subjects that ate chocolate and then waited 90 minutes tested for enhanced mathematical and cognitive aptitude. Experts believe this is due to the antioxidant flavanol, something that’s been shown to expand blood vessels and increase blood flow to the brain.
To achieve such results, it is best to eat chocolates that are dark and bitter, such as baking chocolate and cocoa powder. As a measurement reference, approximately 6 grams of cocoa powder or a 4-ounce chocolate bar with 70 percent cocoa will usually suffice in helping to boost brainpower.
British psychologists found that flavanols (a class of flavonoids, which are found in chocolate) helped people with their mental math. Study subjects had an easier time counting backwards from a randomly-generated number between 800 and 999 after drinking a cup of hot chocolate than they did without the cocoa. “The findings suggest students who binge on chocolate when revising for exams may gain a real benefit from doing so,” the British Telegraph reported.
In 2008 Harvard scientists forced test subjects to undergo “two weeks of enhanced chocolate intake.” A fortnight of chocolate face-stuffing, they found, sped up blood flow through their subject’s middle cerebral arteries. In other words, more chocolate means more blood to your brain
Chocolate can alleviate anxiety, according to a 2009 study during which anxious people who ate 40 grams of chocolate (about five squares) every day for two weeks experienced lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than before the intervention. It's not magic: Turns out chocolate contains several bioactive compounds that increase your levels of anandamide, a lipid that turns on the brain receptors responsible for chilling you out, according to a study published in the mid-'90s.
Subjects that were tested for high levels of stress hormones were put on a dark chocolate regimen for an indefinite amount of time. However, after just two weeks, samples taken from the patients showed a marked decrease in hormonal levels in the gut related to stress. Particularly, metabolic bacteria in the gut became more active and produced additional healthy bacteria that were then made available to the body. Scientists believe that flavanol and other healthy polyphenols contributed to this noteworthy discovery, which showed chocolate’s positive gut health benefits
Cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate - in moderation - might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes
Although research shows that a sugary diet can promote weight gain that puts you at increased risk developing type-2 diabetes, researchers who looked at the long-term effects of chocolate consumption found something surprising: Among women who were tracked for 13 years, those who ate moderate levels of chocolate regularly were actually less likely to develop type-2 diabetes than women who ate it less than once a month, according to a 2017 study published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While it's important to note that the study didn't prove causation or explain how the magic happens, existing research suggests compounds in chocolate can enhance insulin sensitivity — a good thing, since resistance to insulin can contribute to type-2 diabetes over time.
The Italians know a thing or two about good eating.And a small study from the University of L'Aquila, in Italy, found that eating chocolate increases insulin sensitivity, which reduces the risk of diabetes
Gram for gram, dark chocolate, in particular, contains even higher concentrations of antioxidants than apples, black tea, and red wine. Antioxidants from natural sources like cocoa counteract cell damage that leads to visible signs of aging and risk of developing certain chronic and debilitating diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Although research suggests you'd have to eat a lot of chocolate to notice any difference in your sex life, chocolate still contains phenylethylamine (a chemical the body releases in response to physical attraction, which also increases your levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain's reward center). Meaning: While chocolate might not make your sex life extra hot, every bar you eat supports the cause. Can't hurt!
In a 2016 study, male cyclists who added about 1 1/2 squares of dark chocolate to their diets every day without tweaking their workouts improved their sprint speeds and stamina more than a control group who added white chocolate, which contains less epicatechin, a naturally occurring substance found in cocoa that study authors think may improve blood flow, energy metabolism, and cardiac functioning
Preliminary findings from Hershey suggest that natural cocoa, which has more flavanols than Dutch-processed cocoa, may limit the number of calories you actually take in during digestion by quashing the action of certain digestive enzymes, thus preventing some fats and starches in other foods from being absorbed. More research is needed—this study was done in test tubes, not humans—but the authors hope that the results will hold up in human trials
When researchers had study participants eat dark chocolate, they were better able to distinguish items on a similarly colored background and took less time to detect the direction of moving dots (two measurements important for night driving) than when they ate white chocolate. Researchers think that flavanols—antioxidants present in dark chocolate, but absent in white chocolate—improved vision
Cocoa contains a compound called pentameric procyanidin, or pentamer, which disrupts cancer cells’ ability to spread. When researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University treated cancer cells with pentamer back in 2005, the proteins necessary for cancer growth were suppressed and the cells stopped dividing
The most delicious way to kick your cough, apparently, is chocolate. One of the sweet’s chemical components, theobromine, seems to reduce the activity of the vagus nerve, the part of the brain that triggers coughing fits. Scientists are even working on a cough-quelling drug that uses theobromine in place of codeine—a narcotic common in cough medicine
Jeanne Louise Calment lived to the age of 122—the oldest anyone has ever lived. She ate two and a half pounds of dark chocolate per week. Harvard researchers found that eating chocolate actually adds two years to your life expectancy.
Never again feel guilty for eating chocolate. You have to take care of yourself, and chocolate is pretty much a one stop shop for that!