Chocolate offers unique slimming and longevity benefits, as well as antioxidants that can help prevent chronic disease—but it’s important to eat the “good” type and only in ideal amounts.
Studies point out that chocolate may not only make life sweet, but also help lengthen it. Chocolate isn’t a recent invention; its health benefits date back to ancient times, when the Aztecs made a chocolate drink from the cacao bean.
The antioxidant content of chocolate may explain some of its health-boosting potential. Phenols in cacao can inhibit free radicals and help build immunity. From having a potentially longer life to attaining a leaner body, chocolate may be both a smart and delicious natural intervention.
Chocolate as an Anti-Obesity Treat
A March 2021 study investigated how adding 10 grams of cocoa-rich chocolate every day to the diet of postmenopausal women would affect their body composition.
The six-month randomized trial divided the subjects into two: the intervention group, which received 10 grams (g) of 99 percent cocoa chocolate daily as part of their habitual diet, and the control group, which didn’t receive any cocoa. The quantity of chocolate received by the first group included 65.4 milligrams (mg) of polyphenols.
Measuring factors involving body composition, the cocoa was linked to a favorable decrease in the intervention group when it came to body fat mass and body fat percentage (as analyzed in the trunk, arms, and legs), with an insignificant reduction in body mass index .
The researchers wrote, “Daily addition of 10 g of cocoa-rich chocolate to the habitual diet of postmenopausal women reduces their body fat mass and body fat percentage without modifying their weight.”
In a separate study, cacao derivatives were analyzed in animal models for five weeks. The researchers found that the treatments significantly slashed body weight by 39 percent, systolic blood pressure by 27 percent, triglycerides by 55 percent, total cholesterol by 24 percent, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by 37 percent, and the triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio by 54 percent. The cacao derivatives improved the metabolic function of the subjects without leading to secondary effects, the team noted.
Chocolate as a Heart Healthy Food
Flavonols, which are plant-derived polyphenolic compounds in cocoa, have been linked to improved endothelial function and blood pressure in humans.
A March 2021 study explores the effect the consumption of cocoa flavonols has on stress-induced changes in humans’ vascular function.
The study recruited 30 healthy men to consume a cocoa beverage 1.5 hours before an eight-minute mental stress task, assessing forearm blood flow, blood pressure, and cardiovascular activity before and after, both at rest and during stress.
In the results, cocoa increased forearm blood flow at rest and during stress, with similar effects on stress-induced cardiovascular and blood pressure responses in both situations. Key to the outcomes are flavanols, which effectively counteract endothelial dysfunction and enhanced peripheral blood flow during stress, according to the authors.
But how much chocolate should lead to these benefits? A meta-analysis of 23 studies with 405,304 participants shows that reduced cardiovascular disease risk may occur with less than 100 g (about 3.5 ounces) of weekly consumption.
It’s important to note that larger amounts may negate the benefits and cause adverse effects associated with high sugar intake.
Chocolate as a Longevity Promoter
How about the relationship between eating chocolate and mortality? Research published in July 2021 examines this link in the US population, studying 91,891 participants aged 55 to 74.
The researchers assessed the subjects’ chocolate consumption through a food frequency questionnaire. With an average follow-up of 13.5 years, they documented 19,586 all-cause deaths.
The lowest risk for dying from all-cause mortality was seen at a chocolate intake of 0.7 servings per week and from cardiovascular events at 0.6 servings a week. The benefits were more pronounced in subjects who never smoked compared to current or former smokers.
While the exact causes of aging are yet to be clearly understood, research suggests that telomeres are connected to the aging process. A study found a strong correlation between telomere shortening rate and the lifespan of species such as humans.
Interestingly, research published in 2020 found that adolescents who consumed two servings per week or more of chocolate candy have longer leukocyte telomere length compared with nonconsumers, possibly because of its effect on the apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1)/HDL pathway.
In a 2008 study, cocoa also demonstrated antioxidant, pro-oxidative, and metal-chelating properties on the common fruit fly.
In choosing to use chocolate for its weight loss and longevity benefits, it’s important to consume the right kind.
Dark and Raw: The darker, the better, as this means less sugar is added to the mix. Go for at least 70 percent cacao content, favoring raw cacao because more flavanols are preserved.
Organic: This helps you avoid residues of the herbicide glyphosate and other pesticides used in conventional farming.
Fair Trade: Cocoa crops are often unfairly traded and are even associated with the use of child slaves.
Read more scientific studies on the benefits of cocoa or chocolate and how this celebrated health food, in the right amounts and form, may serve as a sweet strategy against disease and premature death at GreenMedInfo.com.