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Entries in Dark Chocolate (5)

Thursday
Feb142013

Dark Chocolate Trend Making Valentine’s Day Healthier

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thursday could be the healthiest Valentine’s Day on record, with more Americans than ever reaching for dark chocolate over milk chocolate, experts say.

Heightened public awareness about the health benefits of dark chocolate has turned what used to be seen as a guilty indulgence into a must-have staple.  The dark stuff contains a higher level of cocoa flavonoids, which recent scientific studies have found combat bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

A devotion to dark is obvious from farmers markets to supermarkets, where shoppers are bombarded by dark chocolate bars containing 70, 80, and 90 percent cocoa solids.

Fast-food shops are even getting in on the trend.  Krispy Kreme unveiled a dark chocolate donut this month and Dunkin’ Donuts is peddling “dark hot chocolate.”

“It’s growing and it’s growing and it’s growing,” Katrina Markoff, owner of Vosges Haut Chocolate, an edgy chocolatier based in Chicago, told ABC News.  The company’s dark chocolate bacon bar outsells its milk chocolate cousin by a lot, she said.

“We sell millions of those,” said Markoff.

Milk chocolate still reigns, with only 29 percent of Americans over age 45 and 15 percent of Americans age 18 to 44 preferring dark chocolate, according to a survey by the National Confectioners Association.

But the dark trend is on an undeniable upward swing, said Susan Smith, an association spokeswoman.

A nutrition researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health said the potential of dark chocolate is exciting scientists, but some consumers are getting the wrong message.

“We’re in the middle of a scientific revolution in the understanding of cocoa flavonoids,” Eric Ding told ABC News.

So far the only proven positive effects of dark chocolate come from research that studied a daily consumption of 400-600 mg of cocoa flavonoids -- about 10 chocolate bars.  Scientists have extrapolated that there are some benefits, though smaller, for, say, just one bar a day, he said.

Shoppers should balance calories and sugar with dark chocolate’s benefits, he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun012012

Dark Chocolate Reduces Risk of Heart Problems, Study Finds

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(MELBOURNE, Australia) -- Do you have a bittersweet love affair with chocolate?  One new study, published in the journal BMJ, found that dark chocolate reduces the risk of heart problems.

A team of researchers from Melbourne, Australia analyzed data of more than 2,000 Australians who were already at high risk of heart disease.  They all had high blood pressure, but were not on blood pressure-lowering medication and had no history of heart disease or diabetes.

Using a mathematical model, researchers found that, if the patients were all to consume 100 grams of dark chocolate per day, about 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 people for 10 years could be avoided.  In the model, researchers assumed about $40 was spent per person per year on a prevention strategy using dark chocolate.

In other words, the small amount of bittersweet reduced the risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and stroke, in people with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, metabolites that have heart-protecting properties and are rich in antioxidants.  Flavonoids, which can also be found in green and black teas, cherries, apples, red grapes and other deeply colored fruits and vegetables, have also been known to help with digestion, improve kidney, bowel function and sexual performance, and treat anemia and gout.

“Modest intake of dark chocolate intake can provide the daily amount and the benefits are substantial and cost effective,” professor Chris Reid, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, said via email.  “For the first time, we have estimated the impact on clinical outcomes and a $40 per person, per year investment would yield a cost effective approach to cardiovascular disease prevention.”

Reid and his colleagues even suggested that the heart health benefits and prevention could be touted in marketing and educational campaigns.  Or governments could subsidize the cost of dark chocolate in high-risk heart disease populations.

The researchers concluded that the blood pressure-lowering effects of plain dark chocolate “could represent an effective and cost-effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome (and no diabetes).”

It’s important to note that the protective factors were only seen in dark chocolate that contained at least 60 percent (preferably 70 percent, experts say) cocoa.

“You’re not going to see these same benefits in milk and white chocolate,” said Carolyn Snyder, a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic.

But she noted this is not a green light for people to eat copious amounts of any kind of chocolate. Snyder recommended consuming about one ounce of chocolate per day, two to three times a week, for the heart benefits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr242012

Chocolate for Heart Health: The Darker the Better

Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- When it comes to heart health, not all chocolate is created equal.

This was the finding of a new study in which researchers at San Diego State University pitted dark chocolate against white chocolate to see which one offered the most benefit.

The researchers suspected that dark chocolate consumers would see the most health benefits from the dark chocolate, which among the various types of chocolate has the highest concentration of flavonoids. Flavonoids are compounds produced by plants that function as important pigment molecules. They’ve gained popularity as the substance responsible for the cardioprotective effects of red wine.

Specifically, researchers sought to discover what good things would happen if they studied people who ate chocolate every day, and whether different kinds of chocolates produced different health effects. The flavonoids are in highest concentration in the cocoa, which is absent in white chocolate.

The researchers fed either one of two types of dark chocolate or white chocolate to 31 experimental subjects over 15 days, after which they monitored their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

They found that those who ate either form of dark chocolate had lower blood sugar levels and better cholesterol ratios, more “good” cholesterol, or HDL, and less “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, compared to the white chocolate group.

Given these positive changes in factors associated with heart disease, researchers concluded that dark chocolate was the most likely to reduce risk of future cardiovascular disease.

The researcher presented the results at the conference Experimental Biology in San Diego.

In past animal studies and select human studies, flavonoids have been shown to be good antioxidants, scavenging oxygen radicals responsible for damage and aging.  Anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and cardio-protective effects have also been attributed to this special substance.

The new study adds to the evidence that chocolate, in small amounts, can be a good thing. A 2009 Swedish study found that small amounts of dark chocolate helped patients improve blood pressure control, and other studies have found protective benefits against diabetes in small doses.

But a small amount is the key detail. And for some of the study participants, it was a hard message to stomach.

“Compliance with our study subjects were great because everybody wanted to eat chocolate,” the researchers said. “We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50 grams a day.”

Along with flavonoids, 50 grams of dark chocolate has about 252 calories -- and half of those calories are from fat.  To put this in perspective, a single chocolate chip gives you enough calories to provide energy to walk about 150 feet.

Most Americans don’t need more calories; more than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Fortunately, flavonoids are found in many different fruits and berries, which are associated with many fewer calories and much less fat.

So while preliminary results are hopeful for chocolate lovers everywhere, don’t indulge just yet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Heart Disease, Diabetes and Stroke: More Chocolate, Less Risk?

Pixland/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A new review of previously published studies adds weight to the claim that chocolate is good for the heart.

Taken together, five of seven studies included in the review linked high chocolate consumption with a 37 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, a 31 percent reduction in diabetes risk and a 29 percent reduction in stroke risk when compared to low chocolate consumption.

"Although over-consumption can have harmful effects, the existing studies generally agree on a potential beneficial association of chocolate consumption with a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders," Adriana Buitrago-Lopez of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. and colleagues reported Monday in BMJ.

The findings held up even when factors such as age, diet, physical activity, body mass index and smoking were controlled for.  But the review stopped short of concluding that chocolate itself makes people healthier.

"This paper merely shows us that the association between habitual intake of chocolate and lower cardiometabolic risk is 'statistically robust,'" said Dr. David Katz, director of medical studies in public health at Yale University.  "But what if happier people eat more chocolate, and are at lower cardiometabolic risk because they are happier?  This paper cannot address such subtleties."

The review included data collected from more than 114,000 people.  But the large numbers don't prove cause and effect, Katz said.  The review does, however, support chocolate as a healthful indulgence -- in moderation, of course.

This is a wonderful example of the opportunity to love food that loves us back," said Katz.  "However, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing."

Katz, who has published studies on the health effects of chocolate, said the next step is to establish a therapeutic window similar to that for red wine.

"Our conclusion is that dark chocolate -- 60 percent cocoa or higher -- and liquid cocoa have clear, potential benefits in terms of overall cardiac risk, but that we don't yet know enough about optimal dosing to best use this food 'as medicine,'" Katz said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar242011

Eating Cocoa Associated with Improved Heart Health

Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- For years we've heard about the health benefits of dark chocolate.  Now researchers have taken another look at the role of cocoa on heart health and presented their study to a conference at Harvard Medical School.

Chocolate comes from the cocoa plant and contains compounds known as flavonoids, which not only act as antioxidants but are known to have cardiovascular benefits.

Researchers reviewed 21 studies on the effects of cocoa on the the heart.  The studies were short term and the more than 2,500 participants consumed sugar-free dark chocolate.

The authors found that eating chocolate lowered blood pressure and improved the ability of insulin to lower blood sugar "without weight gain."

They concluded chocolate is good for the heart.  However,  they didn't say how much is needed or for how long one should enjoy its benefits.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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