11 April 2017
Season’s temptations: beneficial effects of chocolate according to research
Easter is behind the corner and therefore also the annual over-indulging in the Food of the Gods, chocolate! However, many studies have shown that cocoa and dark chocolate have a series of beneficial effects on health: not only has cocoa intake been associated with improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, but also to have beneficial effects on cognition and reduce the risk of dementia, and, interestingly, with lower BMI, on condition of modest and reasonable intake.
The knowledge about the powerful properties of cocoa and dark chocolate is available to us thanks to a number of research studies published during the past twenty years. However, the trigger that set off the interest for cocoa and its active principles were the first studies conducted on indigenous Central American populations and the health-related benefits they derived from high cocoa intake, such as improving blood flow and preventing the onset of hypertension.
Cocoa contains a high amount of polyphenols, which are the active compounds responsible for the beneficial effects on health. According to Professor Scapagnini, world expert on biological ageing mechanism and functional nutrition, cocoa is an important ingredient in the perspective of the so-called positive nutrition, i.e. the idea that nutrition can act not only in terms of prevention, but actually boost and enhance our health by acting as a signal for gene activity.
Polyphenols contained in cocoa have been associated with the modulation of inflammatory response due to their ability to downregulate pro-inflammatory cytokines and related biochemical pathways. They are also considered powerful antioxidants because they have been found to be able to protect lipids from oxidative damage. Inflammation and oxidation are processes involved with age-related conditions: a number of studies have investigated the effects of cocoa consumption and found it reduces the risk of chronic diseases and contributes to improving cognitive function.
Thanks to the contribute of research we can plan a reasonable consumption of chocolate (preferably bitter and dark with a high percentage of cocoa content) which can be good for our present and future health and at the same time please our craving.