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Cocoa and chocolate full of health benefits

By Adrian Bishop - 28 Mar 2012 23:30:1 GMT
Cocoa and chocolate full of health benefits

Chocolate Image via Shutterstock

Chocolate has a host of health benefits, a leading scientific conference has been told. The American Chemical Society (ACS) held a festival of chocolate and cocoa as part of its National Meeting & Exposition in San Diego, USA.

The seminar, called Cocoa: Science and Technology, included 18 reports on the health benefits of the world's most popular comfort food.

Dr Sunil Kochhar, from Switzerland's Nestle Research Center, an expert on the health benefits of chocolate who took part in the symposium, says, "Chocolate is one of the foods with the greatest appeal to the general population.

"The luscious aroma, taste and textures of chocolate have delighted the senses of people in many parts of the world for centuries and make it a well-known comfort food."

One study that was published in the ACS peer-reviewed Journal of Proteome Research, investigated the biochemicals underlining chocolate's appeal as a comfort food and the benefits of peptides and flavonoids found in cocoa powder.

Thirty adults ate 1.5ounces of plain chocolate a day and found that their stress hormones were reduced, along with other signs of anxiety. Dr Kochhar says the benefit is due to flavonoids in the cocoa.

The seminar participants also heard how chocolate might help soothe problems with the trigeminal nerve, such as migraine and issues with the temporomandibular joint.

The polyphenols in chocolate secrete helpful enzymes into the small intestine and help reduce inflammation.

It may even help combat heart problems for those with type two diabetes, as the flavonoids help build up mitochondria body cells that are weaker in those with heart disease. The flavonoids can also help reduce blood pressure.

Epicatechin, a good antioxidant most prevalent in plain chocolate, can make cell membranes more durable and protect against some forms of heart disease.

Chocolate may cut the chance of contracting colon cancer by protecting against cell changes and wiping out cells that create precancerous conditions.

For smokers, a diet rich in chocolate may be of benefit, as polyphenols in plain chocolate work on the blood platelets to help stop clots forming.

The ACS was also told how new cacao tree species that are resistant to the witches' broom fungus that has ruined crops, can influence how chocolate tastes.

The American Chemical Society is the largest scientific society in the world. The non-profit organisation has more than 164,000 members and is a world leader in chemistry research.

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