Bitter is Better: Health benefits of extremely dark chocolates
Many consider eating chocolates as a guilty pleasure. Something for cheat day or as a consolation for one’s self when stressing out.
Studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego show backed that up with scientific findings.
New research shows there might be health benefits to eating certain types of dark chocolate. Specifically the type with 70 percent cacao (minimum), 30 percent organic cane sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity. Lee S. Berk, DrPH, associate dean of research affairs, School of Allied Health Professions and a researcher in psychoneuroimmunology and food science from Loma Linda University, served as principal investigator on said studies.
The effect of dark chocolates in a person’s mood is nothing new but this is the first time cacao is taking the spotlight, Berk explained.
“For years, we have looked at the influence of dark chocolate on neurological functions from the standpoint of sugar content — the more sugar, the happier we are. This is the first time that we have looked at the impact of large amounts of cacao in doses as small as a regular-sized chocolate bar in humans over short or long periods of time, and are encouraged by the findings. These studies show us that the higher the concentration of cacao, the more positive the impact on cognition, memory, mood, immunity and other beneficial effects,” Berk said.
The flavonoids found in cacao are extremely potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, with known mechanisms beneficial for brain and cardiovascular health.
The Study findings show cacao consumption up-regulates multiple intracellular signaling pathways involved in T-cell activation, cellular immune response and genes involved in neural signaling and sensory perception; the latter potentially associated with the phenomena of brain hyperplasticity –the brain’s ability to change and adapt.
Berk explained that further research is in progress to elaborate on the mechanisms that may be involved in the cause-and-effect brain-behaviour relationship with cacao at this high concentration.
The two studies presented are The studies Dark Chocolate (70 percent Cacao) Effects Human Gene Expression: Cacao Regulates Cellular Immune Response, Neural Signaling, and Sensory Perception and Dark Chocolate (70 percent Organic Cacao) Increases Acute and Chronic EEG Power Spectral Density (μv2) Response of Gamma Frequency (25-40Hz) for Brain Health: Enhancement of Neuroplasticity, Neural Synchrony, Cognitive Processing, Learning, Memory, Recall, and Mindfulness Meditation.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, dark chocolate contains 50-90 percent cocoa solids, cocoa butter, and sugar, whereas milk chocolate contains anywhere from 10-50 percent cocoa solids, cocoa butter, milk in some form, and sugar.
Though dark chocolate should not contain milk, there may be traces of milk from cross-contamination during processing, as the same machinery is often used to produce milk and dark chocolate. Lower quality chocolates may also add butter fat, vegetable oils, or artificial colors or flavors.
White chocolate does not contain any cocoa solids and is made simply of cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Dark chocolates gets more bitter the higher the cocoa solids it contains. 70% dark chocolate or higher to obtain the most flavanols.