Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate

          Chocolate has been a beloved and cherished treat for thousands of years.   We give it as a gift, we eat it when we are sad, and we incorporate it into recipes to make other delicious food.   Although chocolate has been criticized for its sugar content and contributor to weight gain, it actually has many surprising health benefits.  Granted, most of these benefits only come from dark chocolate, and preferably in a moderate quantity, but chocolate is chocolate!
People often justify eating chocolate by saying, “it’s good for you!” which is not necessarily incorrect, but most people don’t actually know specifically how chocolate can impact your body.  A study done on mice indicated that the flavanol epicatechin in  cacao has an anti-aging effect, that is, it can stimulate the production of new mitochondria, which are very important to have more of as you get older.  The study concluded that older mice that were fed flavanol-rich chocolate increased their exercise performance by 50%.  A study done on humans regarding flavanol had a similar conclusion, more flavanol dense chocolate positively affected and increased the circulation of nitrogen oxide in the body.The effects of cocoa on the immune system
Another benefit to eating dark chocolate is caffeine-like quality.  Theobromine is a molecule found in chocolate that has effects similar to that of caffeine, that positively affect the body.  This molecule plays a role in inhibiting phosphodiesterase, which increases the production of cAMP, promoting energy in the body.  Unlike caffeine though, theobromine stays longer in the body, creating a longer lasting effect.  
It is important to note that these effects have only been demonstrated with dark chocolate, where the flavanols and theobromine are highly concentrated. The milk in milk chocolate generally derails the positive effects previously listed, and white chocolate does not actually contain any cacao at all! While all chocolate is generally good for the soul, the next time you have some dark chocolate, you can be sure that you are doing your body a favor too

Post by Erina Taradai (Group 3) 


  1. I recently also had to explain the benefits of chocolate in my physiology class! It's funny to read about all the research saying how great it is for you after growing up hearing how bad it is for you. I'd be interested to hear how much chocolate I would have to eat in order to reap the benefits. The only downside is as I benefit from one of these compounds, how much do I suffer from the other compounds found in chocolate? Do the pros outweigh the cons?

    Dasha Agoulnik

    1. That is a very valid point. I think in order to achieve optimal benefits and minimal negative effects the chocolate would have to be very dark, with minimal sugar and fat. Obviously milk chocolate and embellished chocolate candies would have minimal positive effects that were listed earlier.

  2. I found it very interesting that I can now eat more dark chocolate. I never knew that chocolate had anti-aging effects, and that it also promotes energy in the body. Who would have though that the flavanol in chocolate also helps increase exercise performance. Dark chocolate could be the alternative to eating a lot of carbs before exercising!

    Yustina Kang (Group 2)

  3. I have always enjoyed dark chocolate more than any other chocolate, and now that I know the health benefits I'll have to have more! It's good to know that dark chocolate gives you more energy than coffee. I usually have coffee everyday and I feel like I'm not getting any energy, so if I can supplement chocolate for coffee to get more energy, I might just have to make the switch!

    Caitlyn Cordaro

    1. I don't believe that the energy from dark chocolate is equivalent to the amount from caffeine, it just lasts longer in the body. So if you have the chocolate it should have a long lasting but not drastic caffeine effect. I don't know how this would be altered if you ate a large amount of chocolate though, perhaps then it would be closer to the caliber of energy that caffeine gives.

  4. I love dark chocolate!
    This is a very informative post. Many of my friends always say that chocolate "is good for you" but when it comes to explaining why, they have no idea. I myself knew that chocolate is good for you, or at least better than milk chocolate, but I did not know much about the actual benefits. In my Physiology class we have been talking about what is it about chocolate that creates pleasurable feelings. We talked about chocolate affects the brain by releasing neurotransmitters that causes this pleasurable feeling. It is great to read about something that makes us feel good and at the same time has benefits. I will definitely keep eating dark chocolate.

    Yerkely Gomez (1)

  5. After hearing so often the negative effects of chocolate it is cool to finally see someone saying the opposite! I wonder why Hershey or other chocolate companies wouldn't advertise these effects on their dark chocolate products. Im sure if people knew they had anti-aging effects they could sell a lot of candy bars. I wonder what other research they could do with this concept of stimulating the production of new mitochondria. I find this to be a very interesting anti-aging remedy.

    Ashley Geary

  6. I always heard that dark chocolate was good for the body and the heart, but its so bitter! It annoys me that foods that are good for you are typically less appetizing. I am a huge milk chocolate fan, however.

    -Soffie Jobarteh