Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Benefits for the Brain:
Previous research has shown that pure chocolate products are high in antioxidants and are a good source of flavonoids. Antioxidants help the immune system by lowering the risk of infection. Flavonoids are antioxidants commonly found in the plant pigment that aid in strengthening the connective tissues of the blood vessels. A study performed at the University of Oslo in Norway shows a direct correlation between chocolate cocoa and brain function of the elderly. The study included 2031 participants who were given cognitive tests both before and after eating chocolate. The results were better after eating a small amount of chocolate. Cocoa products, especially the dark variety, are associated with increased blood flow to the brain. This may be especially helpful for conditions with decreased blood flow, including dementia and stroke.

In another study at the University of Nottingham, Professor Ian MacDonald found that consumption of cocoa-rich drinks boosts blood flow to certain areas of the brain for a short term, two to three hours. This study also raised the possibility that chocolate could be used in the treatment of dementia and strokes.

Benefits for the Heart:
Research conducted in Stockholm County, Sweden, as part of the Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Program, showed that patients who regularly ate chocolate were less likely to die after their first heart attack. Patients, hospitalized following a confirmed heart attack, were given a questionnaire and asked to report their consumption over the previous 12 months.

Three months after discharge, the participants underwent a health screening and were followed for hospitalizations and death over the next eight years. When compared with those who never ate chocolate, the results were better for those who consumed it two or more times per week.

Benefits for the Skin: 
Research shows that eating cocoa can protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet lights. However, the chocolate used in this study was prepared to be higher in flavonols than conventional dark variety. A new manufacturing process may be needed before this benefit is readily available to consumers.

Benefits for the Teeth:
Fox News reported that research conducted by Tulane University doctoral candidate, Arman Sadeghpour, shows that a compound in chocolate called theobromine may help harden tooth enamel, which helps to prevent cavities. In the future, this white crystalline powder may be added to toothpaste.

There are definite health benefits to indulging in the occasional chocolate, but there may be added fat and sugar. So, keep in mind that over-indulgence may diminish those benefits. Too much may cause unwanted increases in your blood sugar levels and your weight.