Chocolate and its reported benefits have made recent media headlines. In fact, several different medical studies performed by reputable universities, organizations, and institutions note the possible benefits of eating chocolate. The following is meant to be a quick-reference guide to chocolate and your health. It gives a brief overview of research results as related by a variety of resources and publications.
Chocolate Health Benefits
A Harvard University study found that men who ate chocolate lived one year longer than those who didn’t.
Scientists think that chocolate contains chemicals that help keep blood vessels elastic and increase beneficial antioxidants in the bloodstream.
Contrary to popular misconception, eating lots of chocolate does not raise blood cholesterol levels. According to Mayo Clinic studies, chocolate contains stearic acid, which is a neutral fat that does not increase bad cholesterol (LDL). Also, the cocoa butter in chocolate contains oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fat. This is the same type of fat found in olive oil that may actually raise good cholesterol (HDL).
Recent studies by Mayo Clinic, the University of California, the University of Scranton, and Pennsylvania State University are proving that Chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants. According to these studies, chocolate is chock-full of flavonoids—naturally-occurring compounds found in the cacao plant, as well as in red wine, tea, fruits, and vegetables. Recent research suggests that these flavonoids may have potentially beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. They may also act as antioxidants, which are believed to prevent or delay certain damage to the body’s cells and tissues.
Dark chocolate, but not white chocolate, may improve the ability of smokers' blood vessels to expand and contract in response to the body's needs, Swiss researchers have found. (http://www.chocolateusa.org/)
Chocolate in pregnancy keeps baby happy. The babies born to women who had been eating chocolate daily during pregnancy were more active and "positively reactive" - a measure that encompasses traits such as smiling and laughter. (http://www.chocolate.org/health/happybaby.html)
Studies have shown that small portions of dark chocolate can improve blood vessel flow, especially in older adults, and may improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity to help reduce the risk of diabetes.
One study, published in the journal Hypertension, reported that the antioxidants found in dark chocolate could help reduce high blood pressure.
In another study, reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate helped prevent stiffening of blood vessels in adults over 50.
Research conducted at the University of Rhode Island suggests chocolate milk may have benefits for individuals who are lactose intolerant. Research reveals that lactose intolerant individuals who consumed chocolate milk showed significant reductions in their symptoms
Chocolate Skin Benefits
Cocoa butter is a natural antioxidant that clears and smoothes the skin. It is frequently used for treating dry skin and stretch marks. Cocoa butter is a natural source of vitamin E as well as a beneficial treatment for chapped hands, feet, lips, pregnant skin and other skin irritations. Cocoa butter contains no petroleum, preservatives or harsh chemicals. It is from the Theobroma cacao tree.
Cocoa butter is is a delicious and nourishing butter that will keep skin extremely supple, moisturized and revitalized thus cocoa Butter is a great ingredient for soap making. Cocoa butter is one of the most stable fats known and contains high concentrations of the anti-aging polyphenol antioxidants that help to alleviate the signs of aging. It is solid at room temperature, but melts at about 76-78 degrees. It melts in contact with the skin, or when placed in a tub of hot water. It makes a wonderful addition to body balms and bath products because of its smooth texture and is a nice massage medium too. Cocoa butter is often recommended for treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. It helps to heal/prevent scar tissue and stretch marks as it improves skin elasticity. In addition, cocoa butter contains cocoa mass polyphenol (CMP), a substance that inhibits the production of the immuno globulin IgE. IgE is known to aggravate symptoms of dermatitis and asthma. Recent research suggests that massaging the skin with cocoa butter may help relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even prevent cancer. This is because of CMP prevalent in cocoa butter in large quantities.
Researchers in Japan reported that CMP inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and tumors by reducing active oxygen levels in the body, and concluded that CMP inhibits the oxidation of LDL (good) cholesterol and the production of inflammatory cells. Preliminary research indicates that CMP actually helps suppress excessive T-cell activity in the immune system, which could help treat skin conditions associated with overactive immune systems, such as psoriasis.
German researchers have shown that ingesting types rich in cocoa solids and flavonoids—dark chocolate—can fight skin cancer. (http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060610/food.asp)
Research indicates that chocolate may be effective at preventing persistent coughing. The ingredient theobromine was found to be almost 1/3 more effective than codeine, the leading cough medicine.
Drinking a cup of hot cocoa provides protection from the sun and natural elements, and helps to looking younger.
Researchers from the Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, found that women who drank an antioxidant-rich brand of hot cocoa for three months developed smoother, better-hydrated skin that was less vulnerable to sunburn. The improvements may stem from the cocoa's high levels of antioxidants called flavonols. (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,162783,00.html)
Part of the pleasure of eating chocolate is ascribed to the fact that its melting point is slightly below human body temperature; it melts in the mouth. Chocolate intake has been linked with release of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to produce feelings of pleasure. (http://chocolate.pentiumhead.com/content/view/713/28/)