Researchers have finally discovered the key to dark
chocolate's health benefits (Photo: Shutterstock)
Presenting their findings at the 27th National Meeting & Exposition of the
American Chemical Society (ACS), the researchers revealed that, unlike so-called
"bad" bacteria in the gut, such as some Clostridia and some E. coli, that are
associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and
constipation, "good" bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria,
feed on dark chocolate to produce anti-inflammatory compounds.
Finley, Ph.D., who led the world-first research into the effects of dark
chocolate on the various types of bacteria in the stomach, says that when these
anti-inflammatory compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the long-term
risk of stroke by reducing the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue.
a series of modified test tubes as a model digestive tract that simulated normal
digestion, the team tested three different cocoa powders. Cocoa powder, which is
a key ingredient of chocolate, contains several antioxidant compounds and a
small amount of dietary fiber, both of which are poorly digested and absorbed in
the stomach but are feasted on by good microbes when they reach the colon. Using
human fecal bacteria, the team subjected these non-digestible materials to
our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic
polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed,"
said Finley. "These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity."
Finley says that combining the fiber in cocoa with prebiotics, (non-digestible
carbohydrates available in dietary supplements, but also found in food like raw
garlic and cooked whole wheat flour that stimulate the growth and/or activity of
bacteria in the digestive system), could also help convert antioxidant
polyphenolics in the stomach into anti-iflammatory compounds, which he believes
is likely to improve a person's health.
you ingest prebiotics, the beneficial gut microbial population increases and
outcompetes any undesirable microbes in the gut, like those that cause stomach
problems," he said. Finley added that combining dark chocolate with solid
fruits, such as pomegranates and acai could also provide even greater health
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