Chocolate may improve heart and brain health

“Recipe for Health:
Chocolate in moderation does the brain and body good”  

“Why Chocolate is Good for You”  
“Eat Chocolate for Your Health”

These headlines are more than wishful thinking: Numerous published studies say that chocolate and cocoa products contain naturally-occurring compounds that are linked to heart health.

It seems like almost every day, we hear about new research on chocolate, cocoa products and health. There is now a plethora of published studies that show that cocoa flavanols are linked to improved heart and circulatory systems, and recent evidence that these cocoa flavanols may also help prevent adverse changes in memory and neurological declines as we age.

Unwrapping the Health Effects of Chocolate and Cocoa

Cocoa is rich in flavanols, a class of dietary flavonoids.  Flavonoids are a broad class of naturally-occurring beneficial plant compounds that are commonly present in tea, coffee, berries, grapes and wine.

Many studies show that people who regularly enjoy chocolate and cocoa are more likely to have improved circulation and heart health. Cocoa flavanols are known to help relax blood vessels, which in turn can lower blood pressure, improve blood clotting and reduce inflammation. A recent conclusion from a Harvard analysis of multiple studies found that flavanol consumption may also be associated with improved blood glucose and insulin profiles.

Emerging evidence suggests flavanols also may have positive effects on our neurological health. A recent article published in the journal Hypertension found that cocoa flavanols improved neurological declines among older adults with mild cognitive impairments in the study. The results found that those who drank the beverages with medium or high cocoa flavanols scored better on short- and long-term memory tests, along with other measures of improvements in cognition compared to those who received low levels of cocoa flavanols. Those consuming the most flavanols also saw improvements in insulin resistance, blood pressure and oxidative stress.

While this research is exciting, above all, chocolate is about pleasure and enjoyment. A moderate amount can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet. Enjoying delicious treats rich in cocoa flavanols, as long as they are part of a nutritious, balanced diet can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Learn more about candy, chocolate and health on NCA’s website, or visit The Story of Chocolate to really explore chocolate and cocoa.

Have you had a dose of flavanols today?