Chocolate: Good for your health! :FZK

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Muhammad Mahdi
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Chocolate: Good for your health! :FZK

Postby Muhammad Mahdi » 03 May 2008, 19:24

Chocolate, like other sugary foods and drinks, is seen as an unhealthy food. The reason given is that sugar is bad for health and leads to obesity. Truth is, recent research shows that chocolate is beneficial. Check this: The effects of chemicals in chocolate on the body.

Flavonoids:

Research shows that chocolate can provide natural health-promoting substances called flavonoids, which help prevent heart disease and cancer. When people consume these substances in chocolate and cocoa, the antioxidant level of their blood increases. This rise in antioxidant levels helps protect us from damage to the heart and blood vessels, and it also guards our DNA from damage that can lead to cancer.

The antioxidants in chocolate have generated a lot of interest because studies show that these compounds are more powerful antioxidants than strong ones found in tea. One study that compared the total antioxidant activity in single servings of cocoa, green tea, black tea and red wine, cocoa scored markedly higher than the rest.

Flavonols:

Another study of older men in the Netherlands indicated those who ate about 100g of chocolate (approximately 1.25 dairy milk bars) every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death. Cocoa beans contain flavanols, believed to increase nitric oxide in the blood and improve blood vessel function. The flavanols and procyanidins in chocolate improve the function and flow of blood vessels and help control inflammation. The study also indicated that despite being strongly associated with greater intake of calories (due to the fats and the sugars), chocolate lowered the overall risk of cardiovascular or any other disease by as much as 50 percent.

Chemicals in the brain:

Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain, proving the claim that chocolate is a comfort food. The endorphins work to lessen pain and decrease stress. A common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate, serotonin, is also known as an anti-depressant. One of the chemicals which causes the release of serotonin is tryptophan found in chocolate.

One of the more interesting neurotransmitters released by chocolate is phenylethylamine. It causes changes in blood pressure and blood-sugar levels leading to feelings of excitement and alertness, allowing students to stay awake in boring classes. Phenylethylamine is also called the "love drug" because it causes your pulse rate to quicken, resulting in a similar feeling to when someone is in love. Theobromine is another chemical found in chocolate that can affect the nervous system. Besides having properties that can lead to mental and physical relaxation, it increases alertness.

Yet another interesting compound found in chocolate is the lipid anandamide, which causes the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which leads to feelings of well being that people associate with a high. Anandamide, found naturally in the brain, breaks down very rapidly. Besides adding to the levels of anandamide, chocolate also contains two other chemicals which work to slow the breakdown of the anandamide, thus extending the feelings of well-being.

All that is well, but what about diabetes (due to the sugar) and cholesterol (due to the fat) and all those calories?! Chocolate cannot really be healthy. Or can it? Well, read on.

It is a common myth that consuming foods high in sugar content leads to diabetes. Diabetes can be either caused by damage to pancreatic tissue (sugar does not damage the pancreas) or by insensitivity to insulin (causing what is known as late-onset diabetes appearing mostly during middle-age). The accepted theory is that frequent sugar intake leads to the constant presence of insulin in the blood, which, over time, leads to the body’s cells ignoring insulin so that it has no effect- hence, diabetes. Note that it is the frequency of sugar consumption not the sugar load that causes diabetes, so it is advisable to have chocolate as desert instead of a snack in between meals.

The other issue concerning chocolate-lovers is fat. Surprisingly, the fat content of chocolate is not a reason to avoid it. Technically, chocolate contains saturated fat, but the particular type of saturated fat—stearic acid—is unique because it does not raise blood cholesterol. But that does not mean that it will not make you fat. The solution to this is exercise.

Sources: http://www.sciam.com

http://www.newscientist.com

http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/n ... eskie.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk
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