Health Benefits of Chocolate

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How to Live Longer: Eat Chocolate

Yes, I thought I should start with the best overall benefit of eating chocolate – you will live longer!A study of 7,800 men by researchers Dr. I-Min Lee, and Dr. Ralph S. Paffenbarger Jr., of the Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston, Massachusetts found eating a few pieces of chocolate every month may make your life both sweeter and longer.The study was published in the British Medical Journal December 19, 1998The specifics found that eating chocolate improved life expectancy overall, with the best amount being  a few time a month.  Eating it daily was not as good, but better than not eating it at all!

Chocolate is Good For the Brain and Heart

There are a number of reasons why chocolate is good for the brain.First of it boosts the  neurotransmitters called serotonin and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are specific molecules that allow our rains and nervous systems to work.  Dopamine and serotonin for instance are needed for feelings of happiness and well-being, as well as motivation and concentration, and for dopamine – strong physical reflexes.Other chemicals in chocolate that may prove healthy for the brain are flavanols.Several studies have indicated that flavanols could improve blood vessel function.For example, research has shown that the indigenous population living on islands near Panama, who consume a type of cocoa rich in flavanols on a daily basis, also experience unusually low rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease.The relative risk of death from heart disease on the Panama mainland is 1,280 percent higher than on the islands.These benefits might also extend to the brain, and could have effects on learning and memory. British researchers studied the results on the brains of young women by studying their brains via magnetic resonance imaging while completing a complex task.Consumption of the special cocoa resulted in regional changes in brain blood flow for as long as three hours, meaning that cocoa flavanols may have potential as a treatment of vascular damage within the brain.Excerpt from DrMercola.comThe specific flavanol that is responsible for the vascular benefits the Kuna Indians mentioned above experience is epicatechin.  Epicatechin works by improving nitric oxide levels in the blood – something already linked with better cardiovascular health. 

Chocolate is Great for Your Muscles

Further studies into the flavanol epicatechin reveal that not only does it boost nitric oxide, it also increases the number of mitochondria.  Mitochondria are our power stations, tiny components of each of our cells that turn chemicals into energy!The research was carried out by scientists from Wayne State University who discovered that epicatechin seems to trigger the same muscle response as vigorous activity such as jogging.Additionally, when small doses of chocolate are consumed in combination with regular exercise, performance is increased by 50 percent, the study found.“Mitochondria produce energy which is used by the cells in the body. More mitochondria mean more energy is produced the more work can be performed,” study leader Dr. Moh Malek at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, told the UK Telegraph.“Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is known to increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells. Our study has found that epicatechin seems to bring about the same response – particularly in the heart and skeletal muscles,” he added.The study is published September 14 in the Journal of Physiology, and you can read more about it here –

More on the Heart Health Benefits of Chocolate

Chocolate can also help prevent a heart attack by lowering levels of inflammation in the body (measured by C reactive protein). 15g of dark chocolate a day also helps chronic fatigue syndrome, lower blood pressure, and even seems to be good for insulin too! According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the antioxidant concentration in hot cocoa is almost twice as strong as red wine. Cocoa’s concentration was two to three times stronger than that of green tea and four to five times stronger than that of black tea.2. Professor Chang Yong Lee, the leader of the Cornell study, added that the “hot” in “hot chocolate” is important as well. More antioxidants are released when it’s heated up.3. A cup of hot cocoa contains 611 milligrams of the phenolic compound gallic acid equivalents (GAE) and 564 milligrams of the flavonoid epicatechin equivalents (ECE). The antioxidant gallic acid is used to treat internal hemorrhages, albuminuria (the presence of albumin in the urine, which can indicate kidney disease) and diabetes.4. Although a regular bar of chocolate has strong antioxidant activity, the health benefits may be outweighed because of the saturated fats present — cocoa generally has much less fat per serving compared to the 8 grams of fat in a standard chocolate bar.5. The flavonoids help your body process nitric oxide, which is why hot cocoa can improve blood flow, help lower your blood pressure and improve heart health.6. The flavonoids in hot chocolate also help prevent platelets in your blood from mingling together and forming clots.7. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, drinking hot chocolate can help you think better too. The flavonoids increase the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Since dementia is caused by a reduced flow of blood to the brain, researchers think it could be treated with cocoa. 

Epicatechin Health Benefits Rival Penicillin

Not as an antibiotic, but in it’s overall use to prevent death and disease.Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, states that epicatechin is so important that it should be considered a vitamin.Hollenberg spent years studying the benefits of cocoa drinking on the Kuna people in Panama. He found that the risk of 4 of the 5 most common killer diseases: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes, is reduced to less then 10% in the Kuna. They can drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week. Natural cocoa has high levels of epicatechin.‘If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing that they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine,’ Hollenberg says. ‘We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of 4 of the 5 most common diseases in the western world, how important does that make epicatechin?… I would say very important’ benefits of dark chocolate

Now the Bad News

Flavanols like epicatechin are often removed from commercial cocoas because they tend to have a bitter taste. So there is huge scope for nutritional companies to develop epicatechin supplements or capsulesEpicatechin is also found in teas, wine, and some fruit and vegetables.One chocolate bar that has the wonder ingredient is the Dove Dark Chocolate bar, sold in other countries such as the UK, under the name Galaxy! (You have to get the dark chocolate version of Galaxy)

And Some More Good News…

If you like hot chocolate, we have a very high quality one, mixed with the medicinal mushroom Ganoderma Lucidum.

Learn more about that here:


Written by Dr Chris Pickard

Posted In:

First published on: Oct 17, 2023

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