Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sweet News for Dark Chocolate Lovers

It’s pretty sweet news. Researchers have discovered that dark chocolate can:

Reduce insulin sensitivity. You may wonder why this is significant. Insulin is released by the pancreas when blood sugar rises and helps push blood glucose into the cells. When this process is repeated too much due to high sugar intake, however, the cells become resistant to insulin and that prevents insulin from doing its job. It also steals needed nutrition from cells. As if that weren’t enough, the body also gets signals that it’s starving, which calls for more food intake and causes the body to store fat to protect itself. All of this, of course, results in weight gain and other unhealthy outcomes.

Fortunately, dark chocolate has a positive effect on insulin. For example, a 2012 meta-analysis of 42 studies of chocolate and cocoa was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results supported the connection between dark chocolate consumption and significant reductions in serum insulin, which resulted in resistance to insulin to decrease. What’s more is that the researchers found that dark chocolate consumption correlated to consistently lower blood pressure. This Eruonews Science video highlights these benefits and more, including dark chocolate’s possible ability to lower the risk of stroke.

Help quell food cravings. A Denmark study reviewed in Science Daily found that dark chocolate, compared to milk chocolate, effectively lessened unhealthy food cravings and was also more filling. Study subjects were given either dark chocolate or milk chocolate, and over the next several hours, they responded to how hungry those tested were. The researchers also recorded caloric intake for each person and discovered that those who had eaten the dark chocolate consumed 15 percent less than the other test subjects. Likewise, the dark chocolate eaters had fewer cravings for unhealthy snacks.

Reduce stress and cortisol levels. Many of us know what stress and cortisol can do. Stress triggers the release of cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, causes the body to secrete more insulin. That leads to overeating. It’s a vicious and unhealthy cycle. Dark chocolate helps, though. A study published in the Journal of Proteome Research highlighted that anxiety sufferers who consumed 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks showed reduction in cortisol excretion. That finding prompted the scientists to conclude that chocolate has the ability to alter human metabolism—at least as it pertains to cortisol.

The caveat, however, is to choose organic dark chocolate that is the richest in cocao and the least processed.  It’s also important to point out that dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, which, of course, are believed to help the body's cells resist damage caused by free radicals, formed by normal bodily processes such as breathing or environmental toxins. When the body lacks adequate levels of antioxidants, free radical damage can get out of hand.

Some of the protective properties of dark chocolate are found in its flavonoids, which are pigments in plants and fruits that act as antioxidants to protect against damage from free radicals. Tests have shown that the flavonoids in chocolate are particularly potent antioxidants. Additionally, dark chocolate also contains some plant sterols, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, potassium and other heart-healthy substances.

Pretty sweet, right?