Dark chocolate health benefits and how a few squares could save your brain cells...

The Good Life Letter 
10th October 2010

  • Dark chocolate health benefits are oh so virtuous!
  • Chocolate for life, love and health
  • What do the Aztecs, Madame du Barry and
    Casanova have in common? 

I love finding a good news story, and today's is all about

THIS JUST IN ......The latest research says that chocolate
isn't just good eating, it could also guard against brain
injury following a stroke.  Hurrah!

I can't imagine that the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow &
Metabolism (JCBFM) would be your normal morning read
(and if I'm being honest it's not high on my list either), 
but I read it the other day, and that's where I made my

The good folks of John Hopkins University in Baltimore,
MD published a study in the JCBFM recently confirming my
long held theory - chocolate is a good thing.

Basically the summary of their research was that
chocolate is a VERY good thing.  They've shown in their
studies that dark chocolate affects a biochemical pathway
which can help protect the body from strokes.

But before I get carried away, like all good news there are
a few other facts we need to take into account.

Firstly, the study was into the protective effects of
chocolate against brain injury for stroke patients,
however, the research so far has only been done on mice.

Next, the benefits were at their greatest when the
chocolate was consumed ninety minutes before a stroke
was generated in the subjects.

I guess you might be thinking that this isn't such good
news after all - after all are you likely to be able to pre-
empt your ischaemic attack and have the chance to get a
bar of Bourneville down in time to ensure you minimise
any damage?

But don't despair, this research is in its very early days
and the results are in fact very exciting, especially to me.

Let me explain.

The head researcher on this project, Dr. Sylvain Dore,
says that he foresees his research leading to insights into
limiting acute stroke damage AND protecting against
chronic neurological degenerative conditions such as

This is the bit that I am interested in, as my Dad has this
horrible condition, and I want to be able to do all I can to
help him and protect myself from following in his shoes. 
For so long, Alzheimer's and Dementia have been
sidelined by mainstream medicine, with many sufferers
being cared for at home with little intervention - other
than very powerful sedatives.

Maybe this is all about to change as Alzheimer's became a
cornerstone of the UK government's new mental health
initiative last month, with promises for faster and more
accurate diagnosis and immediate interventions to limit
the effects on the sufferer and carers.

This is not before time. I would also like to see the
research remit extended to consider natural and
nutritional factors as well as pharmaceutical ones.

Maybe then we will discover how and why dark chocolate
could be used, as it seems that there is so much more we
can learn about this amazing natural product.

As part of their research, Dr. Dore and his team have also
been studying Kuna Indians who live on islands off of the
coast of Panama. They drink a very bitter cocoa drink and
have an exceptionally low incidence of cardiovascular
disease.   Dr. Dore and his team are working to establish
a link between the two.

So, this research has shown that dark chocolate could be
good for your for brain and your heart. What a significant
(and delicious) contribution to good health.

I'm sure there is a lot more work to be done in this area,
and I intend to stay on top of it, so watch this space.

Health benefits of chocolate (no, really!)

Much is already known about the health benefits of cocoa
and chocolate which include:

* Lowering blood pressure. Dark chocolate has been
proven to have a positive effect on high blood
pressure and is considered as healthy chocolate -
the same is not true for milk versions.

* Minimising the risk of heart disease. Because
chocolate is a powerful antioxidant, containing
flavanoids (which are also found in red wine) it is
believed to protect against heart disease. Even
though there are saturated fats in chocolate they
do not seem to be responsible for raising

* Improved artery function. Studies published in the
Swedish journal, Heart, found that if smokers eat a
small amount of dark chocolate their artery
function improves within HOURS. This means a few
squares a day can dramatically reduce their risk of
developing hardened arteries.

* Helping fight cancers?  This is still an area of
discussion amongst scientists. However, if the
flavanoids, flavanol and antioxidants in healthy
chocolate can prevent cancers growing, it is well
worth trying. No studies have provided absolute
proof, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence form
sufferers who claim benefit.

Of course, chocolate also has other significant impacts on
the body, not least because of its stimulatory qualities.

What the Aztecs, Madame du Barry and Casanova
have in common
The Aztecs were the first known people to link the cocoa
bean to sexual performance. The emperor Montezuma ate
copious amounts of cocoa before his romantic liaisons.
In 1624 a professor in Vienna tried to ban monks from
drinking chocolate because it 'inflamed the passions'.
Madame du Barry, The mistress of Louise the XV believed
this too. She gave her lovers chocolate to drink when they
came into her room.
This woman was seriously keen.
Another 'keen' fellow was Casanova. He thought chocolate
was even more stimulating than champagne and called it
the 'elixir of love'.
All this bedroom stuff aside, as far as I'm concerned the
real health benefit is it just makes you feel so GOOD.
Make sure you buy high quality dark chocolate with over
70% cocoa solids. Anything under 70% cocoa solids is still
tasty, but should be considered more as confectionary
than real chocolate.

Choose wisely.







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