Monday, September 19, 2011
Can Chocolate Reduce Cardiovascular Disease?
We frequently hear of the anti-oxidant benefits in the bioflavonoids of chocolate. Many are so surprised when I tell them that Cacoa (the true spelling) is a plant and as such, considered a "super food". When I lecture, I frequently talk about the power of super foods and they do not have to be sourced from a rare rain forest berry that you've never heard of much less afford. So much of our standard food supply can be considered full of "superfoods" if we just look at the nutrient profile and chocolate is at the top of this list.
Not just any chocolate will do. Much of the chocolate on the market is processed with alkali. This is a process used in Dutch Chocolates and unfortunately, it destroys most of the beneficial flavonoids. Remember, that white chocolate has no flavonoid benefit at all.
Chocolate is also good for the mood. Chocolate also has a more direct stress-reducing effect. It contains a compound called anandamide also known as the "bliss chemical" that binds to certain receptors in the brain to promote relaxation. This happens in a manner similar to the effect of some components of marijuana though the effect is much more subtle (and much more legal!). Chocolate contains enzyme inhibitors that decrease the body's ability to metabolize anandamide, thus "prolonging the high."
High in magnesium, Iron and copper, chocolate also contains lesser amounts of calcium, zinc, Vitamin A, niacin, and phosphorus.
How do you choose a quality chocolate that will be beneficial to your cardiovascular health?
1. Choose the darkest chocolate bar you can tolerate. The higher cocoa, the lower the sugar. I recommend 85-99%. This can be bitter for some so beginning at a 72% and moving up might be your best choice.
2. Choose an organic bar to avoid the pesticide residue.
3. Choose a chocolate bar that has not been processed with alkali.
4. Be kind to our global neighbors and choose "Fair Trade". Sourced from ethically traded cacao farms ensuring fair trade, responsible labor practices and sustainable farming
Your chocolate bar ingredients should be limited to; Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Liquor and Sugar. Of course the higher cacao content will reduce the sugar content. Remember, sugar suppresses the immune system.
A very small amount goes a long way with this beneficial super food. 1-3 squares is a sufficient amount. If you're anything like me, having chocolate in the house may not be a good idea if you are in a weight loss mode. One would think that the slightly bitter taste might detour most from over eating.
Not me, I'm a true chocoholic! This is the reason I don't have a chocolate supply. It's my Friday night movie treat. Only purchase that in which you know you have control over.
Objective To evaluate the association of chocolate consumption with the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders.
Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies.
Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Library, PubMed, CINAHL, IPA, Web of Science, Scopus, Pascal, reference lists of relevant studies to October 2010, and email contact with authors.
Study selection Randomised trials and cohort, case-control, and cross sectional studies carried out in human adults, in which the association between chocolate consumption and the risk of outcomes related to cardiometabolic disorders were reported.
Data extraction Data were extracted by two independent investigators, and a consensus was reached with the involvement of a third. The primary outcome was cardiometabolic disorders, including cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. A meta-analysis assessed the risk of developing cardiometabolic disorders by comparing the highest and lowest level of chocolate consumption.
Results From 4576 references seven studies met the inclusion criteria (including 114 009 participants). None of the studies was a randomised trial, six were cohort studies, and one a cross sectional study. Large variation was observed between these seven studies for measurement of chocolate consumption, methods, and outcomes evaluated. Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease (relative risk 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.44 to 0.90)) and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.
Conclusions Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.