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What Are the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate?

What Are the Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate?

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that eating candy isn’t healthy for you, but did you know that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can actually be healthy when eaten in moderation. Traced back to Pre-Columbian Mexico for its earliest recordings, cocoa beans would be used as the base for a drink by the Aztecs and Mayans, which they called “Xocoatll”. In 1528 the conquering Spaniards returned home with chocolate beverages. Later on in 1615 chocolate was accepted at the royal wedding in France, after which it was introduced to England.

In 1847 Fry & Son’s in England introduced the first “eating chocolate”, though this experiment didn’t take off since this chocolate was found to be too bitter. However, Daniel Peter of Sweden found the solution to make chocolate more edible, and that was through combining it with milk, thus the creation of milk chocolate came to be. There was various spellings of chocolate in the past such as “chocalatall”, “jocolatte”, “jacalatte” and “chockelet”.

Dark Chocolate Improves Cardiovascular Health

Dark chocolate particularly contains many biologically active components like caetchins, procyanidins and theobromine, and whether directly or indirectly, dark chocolate can affect the cardiovascular system. Dark chocolate has been found to improve blood pressure, platelet aggregation and endothelial function.

One study compared the effects of High Flavanol Dark Chocolate (1064 milligrams a day for 6 weeks) and Low Flavanol Dark Chocolate (88 milligrams a day for 6 weeks) on blood pressure, heart rate, vascular function and platelet aggregation. Results showed that HFDC did not increase the heart rate and improved vascular responses. These results suggest that dark chocolate consumption can give the cardiovascular system modest improvements.

Dark Chocolate Promotes Brain Health

A key flavanol found in dark chocolate is epicatechin, which has been shown to enhance memory formation. One study found that this flavanol not only reverses the memory-deficit stat, but it also promotes good health for long-term memory retention. Another study examined the effect of oral administration of dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa solids and 4% total polyphenol content for 3 months at a dose of 500 milligrams or kilograms of body weight per day to rats. The results were fascinating as hyperglycemia decreased and the cognitive performance of rats in the spatial memory related Barnes maze task increased.

Dark Chocolate Can Be A Weight Loss Supplement

The polyphenols of dark chocolate also come into play when one attempts to lose weight. Polyphenols are complementary agents in the management of obesity through multiple functions such as decreasing fat absorption and/or fat synthesis. Dark chocolate plays a possible role in modulating obesity because of its effects on fat, carbohydrate metabolism and satiety.

A study was conducted on Normal Weight Obesity Syndrome (NWO) and to investigate the effects of dark chocolate consumption on lipid profile, inflammatory markers, biochemical parameters, and blood pressure in women with NWO. 15 women of ages between 20 and 40 received 100 grams of dark chocolate containing 70% cocoa for 7 days, and after this time frame, results showed significant increases in HDL cholesterol, and significant decreases in LDL cholesterol and the interleukin-1 receptor antagonist.

Dark Chocolate Helps Your Exercising Efforts

20 subjects around the age of 50 were tested, being separated into placebo and dark chocolate groups. These subjects consumed 20 grams of either product for 3 months before and after treatment, and 17 subjects completed the trial. It was found that the dark chocolate group improved their VO2 Max (bicycle exercise) by 17% as well as max work achieved. It was also discovered that HDL cholesterol levels improved, triglycerides decreased and there were significant increases in protein levels for LKB1, AMPK and PGC1-alpha.

Another study had 9 men perform cycling exercises, 2 trials and 2 weeks apart from each other. They consumed 40 grams of dark chocolate or white chocolate, and the dark chocolate consumption led to increased Gas Exchange Threshold, and improved 2 Minute Time Trial performance and a 6% increase in VO2 Max.

Dark Chocolate Enhances Your Mood

If you are in need of a boost in mood, then dark chocolate might be your go-to option for consumption. Due to its polyphenol content dark chocolate has been found to address anxiety and contentment. Dark chocolate is used as part of diets for humans, and it can reduce oxidative stress. Swinburne PhD candidate Matthew Pase states that dark chocolate is often linked to mood enhancement. 

In a study conducted by Pase and his colleagues, 72 healthy men and women between the ages of 40 and 65 were separated into 3 different groups, and they consumed a dark chocolate drink mix with different cocoa polyphenol amounts, either 500 grams, 250 grams or no grams. This study lasted 30 days, and results revealed that the group who consumed the maximum concentrations of cocoa polyphenols reported to have better content and calmness compared to the other 2 groups.

Dark Chocolate Fights Cancer

The high concentration of catechins and procyanins in cocoa and chocolate products have been found to combat chronic diseases and cancer. Both epidemiologic and intervention studies were conducted, and overall when taken in moderation, the strong antioxidant effects of chocolate products in combination with an enjoyable eating experience can lead to health benefits that fight off cancer.

Particularly colon cancer can be prevented with dark chocolate consumption. Diets rich in polphenols can prevent colon cancer by inhibiting aberrant crypt foci formation, down-regulating gene expression of inflammatory mediators and altering cell kinetics. Dark chocolate consumption can reduce cancer cell proliferation.

Dark Chocolate is Good for Your Skin

There is great photoprotective potential in dark chocolate consumption. 30 healthy subjects were examined for their skin health as 15 each consumed a 20-gram portion of either high flavanoid or low flavanoid chocolate daily. Results showed that the high flavanoid group experienced a significant improvement in minimal erythema dose (MED) as levels more than doubled. These results suggest that dark chocolate can provide significant photoprotection for the skin.

Dark chocolate also provides anti-aging benefits for the skin. Ivan Petyaev, a former researcher at Cambridge University, created a new type of dark chocolate to test the theory of whether or not its consumption can lead to younger, healthier skin. Clinical trials were held where subjects of ages 50 to 60 ate a 7.5 gram piece of “Esthechec” a day, and it was found that there was a boost in blood supply and inflammatory reduction within 4 weeks.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.