Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chocolate as a Pre-biotic?

Beneficial bacteria in cocoa?  According to the American Journal of clinical nutrition, our love of chocolate has shown to be beneficial for the gut.

Remember, we carry about 4 lbs. of bacteria in the human body.  The following study cites cocoa showed a significant improvement in the pre-biotics, the bacteria that your bacteria feed on.

Normally you have an abundance of friendly bacteria, however antibiotic therapy, stress and poor dietary choices may all cause intestinal dysbiosis, which is a bacterial imbalance that results in overgrowth of bad bacteria and yeast.

When the bad bacteria and yeast become overgrown in your intestinal tract, you have a condition called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis has been linked with disorders like yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. A common cause of dysbiosis is antibiotic therapy. The antibiotics that you take for killing an infection will also kill the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. 
Prebiotics and probiotics can restore the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found in various foods.
When you eat probiotics, you will add these healthy bacteria to your intestinal tract. Common strains include Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria.
Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that make their way through our digestive system and help good bacteria grow and flourish. Prebiotics keep beneficial bacteria healthy.  Normally, these prebiotics are found in fibers which can cause some distress.  Inulin is an example of this fiber. 

This study shows, for the first time to our knowledge, that consumption of cocoa flavanols can significantly affect the growth of select gut microflora in humans, which suggests the potential prebiotic benefits associated with the dietary inclusion of flavanol-rich foods.

Don't think you can run out and buy a Hershey bar though!  Not all cocoa is created equal.  The higher the cocoa content, the more beneficial the flavanols.  Remember that sugar can actually disrupt your fine balance of bacteria so I always recommend 85% organic cocoa.

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