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  • Luke French, Health Coach

Eat Chocolate Everyday

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

Eat chocolate every day. Yes, I said it, EAT CHOCOLATE EVERY DAY. Did you ever think those words would come out of my mouth? I bet you didn’t. The health, fitness and everything gym freak I am, there must be a curve ball in here somewhere.


Cocoa is a natural and extremely healthy nutrient. Obviously cocoa is not your mars bar, or galaxy caramel (I love these). Cocoa is the primary ingredient in chocolate, but as we start to drop the percentage of cocoa in our beloved chocolate treats, the health benefits reduce exponentially. In your average dairy milk chocolate bar you will consume 26% cocoa. The health benefits of eating a product with only 26% cocoa, meaning the remaining 74% of ingredients are probably detrimental to your overall goal, would probably not be a good idea. This is why I tell my clients to eat 85% cocoa minimum, to reap all the benefits of chocolate that I’m going to outline later. Lets not forget, the more of something doesn’t necessarily mean the better, everything has to be consumed within reason and also with sensible quantity. But a little bit of chocolate everyday will actually see many more advantages than you may think, and come to think of it, hardly any disadvantageous effects.


Dark chocolate is a type of polyphenol (contains flavonols - a sub-class of flavonoids). Everyone can benefit from increasing their dietary intake of polyphenols for the numerous cardioprotective, immune boosting and microbiome enhancing effects. Chocolate increases the abundance of good bacteria in our gut. I could end this article here, because if there is one thing that would help us with the most bang for our buck, which has an influence over absolutely every cellular and systemic process in the body, it is the state of our microbiome, even more than the brain. Chocolate (or I should say flavanols) modify the intestinal immune status, lowering the expression of IgA antibodies, which shows the influence chocolate can have on regulating and boosting our immune responses. BUT, i'm not going to stop the article there because I want to elude to many other benefits of chocolate and why we should consume it on a daily basis.


‘The Science’ if you would like to read it - If not skip to the conclusion at the end of the article.

1. Improves cholesterol:

As many people are aware, and many people may have experiences, the make up of our lipid environment has a huge influence on our disease risk, especially atherosclerosis. As we see an increase in LDL levels in our blood and a decrease in HDL, our risk of cardiac disease rises and can become a massive risk for decreased mortality. Dosing polyphenols has shown to reduce LDL levels and increase HDL.

2. Reduces inflammation:

Populations that consume dark chocolate on a daily basis compared to those that don’t, show a big reduction in levels of serum C-Reative Protein. This is a protein in the blood that accumulates in the presence of inflammation and it is though to actually be a more important marker than Cholesterol levels to diagnose potential likelihood of heart disease and cardiovascular conditions (like atherosclerosis - previously mentioned). It is theorised that this is due to the influence polyphenols have in reducing the activation of monocytes (a type of inflammatory white blood cell) and neutrophils (the make up of 40-70% of all white blood cells). This may prevent or even reduce vascular inflammation. The efficacy of this measure probably depends on the extent of vascular inflammation, but also on the kind of cocoa product used. However, the evidence for anti-inflammatory effects of cocoa consumption is currently low. Further RCTs with inflammation as primary outcome marker are needed. [1]


3. Reduces blood pressure:

Consumption of dark chocolate will promote the serum nitric oxide levels to rise. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, and so causes the blood vessels to relax and increase their lumenal diameter. Consequently, it is easier for blood to flow through the vessels, causing less force to be pummelled against the walls of the vessels and arteries, thus, lower blood pressure. A study [2], using a control group and a group that consumed dark chocolate, used 25g a day for 15 days and the results were significant. After 15 days treatment, NO serum level between treatment and control groups were significantly different 7.70 ± 3.84 vs 1.92(-0.79 ± 17.78). Both groups had decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure was different significantly between groups after treatment 120.64 ± 8.47 vs 131.19 ± 7.45, while diastolic blood pressure was not significant 74.14 ± 6.30 vs 77.44 ± 10.29.

4. Insulin Resistance:

There is reason to believe that the flavanols in cocoa may ameliorate insulin resistance by reducing oxidative stress, improving endothelial function, and/or altering glucose metabolism. The well-documented effects of cocoa on endothelial function also point to a possible effect on insulin sensitivity. The relationship between endothelial function and insulin resistance is a reciprocal one. Increased insulin sensitivity improves endothelial function; conversely, improvement in endothelial function can increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance has been associated with reduced activity of endothelium-derived NO synthase and with increased plasma levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine, an endogenous NOS inhibitor [3]. This clearly theorises, if not proves the relationship between dark chocolate ingestion, an increase in NO serum levels, consequently imprvements in endothelial function and the corresponding effects that has on insulin resistance.


5. Anti-Free Radical Effects:

Dark chocolate, or the associated polyphenol content in dark chocolate, has been shown to protect cells from damaged caused by free radicals [4]. Free radicals are an undesirable molecule that in the result of normal cell metabolism. This oxidative stress from free radicals and oxidants, can have major consequences that can alter cell membranes and other structures like lipids, proteins and even our DNA. Our ability to cope with, and our exposure to things like polyphenols and their anti-oxidative properties are essential if we want to reduce the effects and damage caused by such harmful molecules.


Conclusion:

Firstly we must control the amount of dark chocolate we ingest. And prior to this we must also understand the cocoa content and the respective benefits that increased cocoa content will have on us physiologically. That said, we can definitely conclude that dark chocolate consumption on a daily basis after controlled for the amount of cocoa, and quantity of chocolate, will have nothing but beneficial effects. These will include the reduction in blood pressure, reducing our risk of cardiovascular diseases, like atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes. in addition to this, we can help control our ratios of LDL:HDL and improve our lipid profile, which will also contribute towards cardioprotective effects. Blood sugar regulation and insulin resistance can also be regulated from consuming dark chocolate every day, and with the health sector spending £2trillion (and now probably more) on the effects of T2D, we could potentially mediate the effects of IR with daily consumption of dark chocolate, but I must add, this is not a cure alone. Lastly, the anti-inflammatory effects dark chocolate could have would result in reduced risk of hundreds of diseases. Controlling for inflammation is the biggest factor in reducing our risk of disease, whatever that disease may be. Manifestation of different diseases is individual, and exposure and stimulus to one person will result in a different disease to another, even with the same initial exposures. If eating dark chocolate everyday can influence this much from a health standpoint, i would highly recommend implementing it into everyones dietary practice.

References:

[1] Ellinger S, Stehle P. Impact of Cocoa Consumption on Inflammation Processes-A Critical Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):321. Published 2016 May 26. doi:10.3390/nu8060321


[2] Sudarma V, Sukmaniah S, Siregar P. Effect of dark chocolate on nitric oxide serum levels and blood pressure in prehypertension subjects. Acta Med Indones. 2011;43(4):224-228.


[3] Sydow K. Mondon CE. Cooke JP. Insulin resistance: potential role of the endogenous nitric oxide synthase inhibitor ADMA. Vasc Med. 2005;10(Suppl 1):S35–S43


[4] Pham-Huy LA, He H, Pham-Huy C. Free radicals, antioxidants in disease and health. Int J Biomed Sci. 2008;4(2):89-96

Article influenced by JoeJefferyCoaching

https://joejefferycoaching.com/all-content/chocolate-amp-why-you-should-eat-it-every-day


Personal training in sevenoaks, tonbridge and hildenborough (kent). Offering health and fitness services one-to-one and online coaching. We specialise in fat loss, weight loss and body composition.

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