The dark truth about chocolate


Grand health claims have been made about chocolate, but while it gives us pleasure, can it really be good for us?

Chocolate

Chocolate has been touted as a treatment for agitation, anaemia, angina and asthma. It has been said to awaken appetite and act as an aphrodisiac. You may have noticed we’re still on the letter A.

More accurately, and to avoid adding to considerable existing confusion, it is the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree that have, over hundreds of years, been linked to cures and therapies for more than 100 diseases and conditions. Their status as a cure-all dates back over 2,000 years, having spread from the Olmecs, Maya and Aztecs, via the Spanish conquistadors, into Europe from the 16th century.

The 19th century saw chocolate drinking become cheap enough to spread beyond the wealthy, the invention of solid chocolate and the development of milk chocolate. Later came the added sugar and fat content of today’s snack bars and Easter eggs, which time-travelling Aztecs would probably struggle to associate with what they called the food of the gods.

Recent years have seen chocolate undergo another transformation, this time at the hands of branding experts. Sales of milk chocolate are stagnating as consumers become more health-conscious. Manufacturers have responded with a growing range of premium products promoted with such words as organic, natural, cacao-rich and single-origin. The packets don’t say so, but the message we’re supposed to swallow is clear: this new, improved chocolate, especially if it is dark, is good for your health. Many people have swallowed the idea that it’s a “superfood”. Except it isn’t. So how has this magic trick-like metamorphosis been achieved?

Its foundations lie in chocolate manufacturers having poured huge sums into funding nutrition science that has been carefully framed, interpreted and selectively reported to cast their products in a positive light over the last 20 years. For example, studies published last year found chocolate consumers to be at reduced risk of heart flutters, and that women who eat chocolate are less likely to suffer from strokes. Consuming chemicals called flavanols in cocoa was also linked to reduced blood pressure. In 2016, eating chocolate was linked to reduced risks of cognitive decline among those aged 65 and over, while cocoa flavanol consumption was linked to improved insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles – markers of diabetes and cardiovascular disease risk.

Such studies have generated hundreds of media reports that exaggerate their findings, and omit key details and caveats. Crucially, most recent research has used much higher levels of flavanols than are available in commercial snack products. For example, the blood pressure study involved participants getting an average of 670mg of flavanols. Someone would need to consume about 12 standard 100g bars of dark chocolate or about 50 of milk chocolate per day to get that much. The European Food Safety Authority has approved one rather modest chocolate-related health claim – that some specially processed dark chocolate, cocoa extracts and drinks containing 200mg of flavanols “contribute to normal blood circulation” by helping to maintain blood vessel elasticity.

cocoa pods in a pile harvested in madagascar
Cocoa pods harvested on the Millot plantation in the north-west of Madagascar. Photograph: Andia/UIG via Getty Images

Prof Marion Nestle, a nutritional scientist at New York University, uses the word “nutrifluff” to describe “sensational research findings about a single food or nutrient based on one, usually highly preliminary, study”. She points out that most studies on chocolate and health get industry funding, but journalists generally fail to highlight this. “Industry-funded research tends to set up questions that will give them desirable results, and tends to be interpreted in ways that are beneficial to their interests,” she says.

Research has repeatedly shown that when food companies are paying, they are more likely to get helpful results. US researchers who reviewed 206 studies about soft drinks, juice and milk, for example, found that those receiving industry money were six times more likely to produce favourable or neutral findings than those that did not. Most nutrition scientists who accept money from industry are in a state of denial, according to Nestle, whose book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat is due to be published in October. “The researchers involved feel it doesn’t affect the integrity and quality of their work,” she says. “But research on drug industry funding shows the influence is generally unconscious, unintentional and unrecognised.”

The public are also misled into believing chocolate is healthy through what scientists refer to as the “file drawer effect”. Two of the aforementioned studies – those on blood pressure and markers of cardiovascular health – are meta-analyses, meaning they pool the results of previously published research. The problem is that science journals, like the popular media, are more likely to publish findings that suggest chocolate is healthy than those that conclude it has no effect, which skews meta-analyses. “It’s really hard to publish something that doesn’t find anything,” says Dr Duane Mellor, a nutritionist at Coventry University who has studied cocoa and health. “There’s a bias in the under-reporting of negative outcomes.”

Then there’s the problem that, unlike in drug trials, those taking part in chocolate studies often know whether they are being given chocolate or a placebo. Most people have positive expectations about chocolate because they like it. They are therefore primed, through the conditioning effect – famously described by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov – to respond positively. They may, for example, become more relaxed, boosting levels of endorphins and neurotransmitters, and triggering short-term physiological benefits.

“The responses of study participants can be affected by their beliefs and assumptions about chocolate,” says Mellor. “Research has also found people who volunteer for studies are more likely to be affected by their beliefs about an intervention than the population as a whole.”

a display of truffles and other sundries in the counter of a chocolate shop in bruges belgium
So hard to resist: a chocolate shop in Bruges, Belgium. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Many of the studies that involve people being given chocolate and tracking their health over time are short and have small numbers of participants. This adds to the difficulties nutritional scientists have in separating out the effects of consuming one food or nutrient from the rest of their diet and other variables and interactions within the body.

So when and why did chocolate companies become so keen on using science as a marketing tool? The answer depends on whom you ask.

During the 1990s, scientists became interested in the French paradox – the now discredited observation that heart disease rates were low in France despite a national diet high in saturated fats. One proposed explanation was relatively high consumption of flavanols, a group of compounds found in red wine, tea and cocoa which, at high doses, had been linked to the prevention of cellular damage. US researchers caused a stir when from around the turn of the century they concluded that Kuna people off the coast of Panama had low blood pressure and rates of cardiovascular disease because they drank more than five cups of flavanol-rich cocoa per day.

This undoubtedly stimulated chocolate industry research. However in 2000, a Channel 4 documentary reported on the use of child labour and slavery in cocoa production operations in Ghana and Ivory Coast – the source of most of the world’s chocolate. This triggered a wave of media reports and negative publicity.

Some say the industry poured money into science at this time to divert attention away from west Africa. “Efforts by many of the large chocolate companies to demonstrate health effects started side by side with the outcry over the use of child labour and slavery,” says Michael Coe, a retired anthropologist formerly of Yale University, co-author of The True History of Chocolate. “Some of it was legitimate science, but it was stimulated, at least in part, by the need to say something positive about chocolate.”

Industry figures strenuously disagree. “There was no connection between those two things,” says Matthias Berninger, vice-president for public affairs at Mars, Inc, when asked whether Coe is correct. “The Kuna story sparked a lot of interest. The level of investment and energy and intensity of research was much more driven by that than it was by the idea of creating a halo around chocolate.”

Critics have accused Mars in particular of using nutritional science to cast its products in a good light. Through its scientific arm, Mars Symbioscience, it has published more than 140 peer-reviewed scientific papers on cocoa flavanols and health since 2005.

The family-owned company has traditionally remained tight-lipped about its involvement in cocoa research. However, last month it published its policies on conducting and funding research. Asked whether it had previously been involved in using research to suggest chocolate was healthy, Berninger says: “I do believe that that was so tempting, Mars couldn’t resist it. If you look back 20 years, there was this idea that this could create huge opportunities for us.”

But he says this changed long ago. “As a marketing strategy, we have not engaged in that for more than a decade.” In 2007, the European Union tightened regulations on nutrition and health claims. Meanwhile, research was making it increasingly clear that health benefits claims for commercial dark chocolate products were unrealistic because of their low flavanol content.

Yet campaigners highlight how chocolate companies, including Mars, have fought public health regulations that might undermine their profits using third parties. US public health lawyer Michele Simon produced hard-hitting reports in 2013 and 2015, documenting how the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the American Society of Nutrition (ASN), were receiving large sponsorship fees from major food industry companies. In 2014, the ASN had gone in to bat on behalf of its corporate backers, including Coca-Cola, Mars and McDonald’s, against a US government plan for added sugar content to be included on food labels, and questioning the evidence on their negative health effects. A year earlier, the AND stated its support for a “total diet approach”, and opposition to the “overly simplistic” classification of specific foods as good or bad. “It’s about co-opting health organisations, and buying legitimacy among professionals and members of the public,” says Andy Bellatti, co-founder of US-based Dietitians for Professional Integrity.

Chocolate manufacturers have also used the classic corporate strategy of using third-party lobbyists to manufacture artificial scientific controversy. Science is, by its nature, about evidence-based probabilities not absolute certainties. The exaggeration of uncertainty was perfected by the tobacco companies in the 1950s, and later copied by the asbestos and oil industries. Chocolate makers have done this through lobbying groups such as the Washington-based International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which campaigned against added sugar labelling in the US, and opposed the World Health Organisation’s 2015 advice that less than 10% of daily energy intake should come from free sugars – those added to food and drinks and occurring naturally in honey and fruit juice.

Criticisms of these tactics seem to be hitting home. Mars broke ranks with fellow chocolate-making ILSI members including Nestlé, Hershey and Mondelēz, which owns Cadbury, in 2016 when it denounced a paper funded by the group questioning research linking sugar consumption and poor health, and related health advice. Last month Mars announced it was leaving ILSI.

a doctor takes someones blood pressure with a sleeve around their arm and a stethoscope
Don’t count on it: large quantities of the flavanols found in chocolate need to be consumed before they will have an impact on blood pressure. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Mars’s Berninger agrees that the chocolate industry could do more to prevent the spread of health myths. “Chocolate is a treat you should enjoy occasionally and in small portions, not a health food,” he says. “Did we say that loud enough over the last 10 years? I would say no.”

Public health campaigners welcome Mars’s new stance. Some see it as a genuine attempt to do the right thing, while others highlight how large food companies are seeking to reposition themselves in the face of growing environmental and health concerns. Whatever the motivation, the gulf between the chocolate industry and its critics seems to be narrowing.

Children hoping to celebrate Easter in the traditional chocolatey style on 1 April will be reassured to hear the two sides also agree on another aspect of the debate. “While chocolate is probably not healthy, it’s also not harmful when enjoyed in sensible amounts,” says Mellor. “Chocolate is candy, adds Nestle. “As part of a reasonable diet, it’s fine in moderation.”

You can say anything with figures…

The role of the media in helping chocolate makers exploit our failure to grasp the complexities of nutrition science was laid bare in a 2015 exposé. German television journalists set up a three-week “study” in which they asked one group of volunteers to follow a low-carb diet, another to do the same but add a daily chocolate bar, a third to make no change to their diet. Both low-carb groups lost an average of 5lb, but the chocolate group lost weight faster. By measuring 18 different things in a small number of people, the spoofers made it likely they would find “statistically significant” but fake benefits of eating chocolate.

The “peer-reviewed” International Archives of Internal Medicine agreed to publish a hastily written paper within 24 hours of receiving it – for a fee of €600. John Bohannon, a Harvard University biologist and science journalist in on the hoax, put together a press release. Within days stories had been published in more than 20 countries. The Mail Online, Daily Express, Daily Star and Bild were among those that fell for it.

“I was just really ashamed for my colleagues,” says Bohannon. “These are people who regurgitate whole chunks of press releases and almost never call on outside sources. In my book, that’s not even journalism. It’s just an extension of PR.”

3 Natural, Evidence-Based Aphrodisiacs For Women


3 Natural, Evidence-Based Aphrodisiacs For Women

According to the ancient Greeks, the apple represented abundance and fertility.  In some quarters, it was customary for a bride to eat an apple on her wedding night.  This was believed to ensure sexual desire, as well as fertility leading to babies.

You might think that’s all a silly superstition.  But Italian researchers just discovered women who eat an apple a day may in fact enjoy better sexual function.

Doctors in Trento, Italy, recruited 731 healthy sexually active Italian women, not complaining of any sexual disorders.  The women were aged 18 to 43.  Each woman completed the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) questionnaire.  The FSFI is designed to assess certain aspects of sexual functioning (e.g. sexual arousal, orgasm, satisfaction, pain) in clinical trials.

The participants also reported their daily apple consumption and their eating habits.  Based on their apple eating, the women were split into two groups.  One group ate at least an apple every day.  The other group did not eat apples regularly.

According to the researchers, the women who ate a daily apple scored significantly higher on the FSFI sexual function index.

How could an apple improve a woman’s sexual function?

The authors acknowledged studies showing a link between phytoestrogens, polyphenols, antioxidants and women’s sexual health.  Apples have an abundance of all three.

Phytoestrogens are weak plant compounds that have an estrogenic effect on the body.  Polyphenols and antioxidants have a positive effect on reducing inflammation and increasing circulation of the blood.

But it’s not just a daily apple that has this beneficial effect on women.

Previously Italian researchers found a daily glass or two of red wine also works.

They recruited 798 healthy women living in the Chianti area of Tuscany.  The women, aged 18 to 50, were divided into three groups.  The groups consisted of teetotalers; daily moderate drinkers of one to two glasses of red wine; or occasional drinkers or those taking more than 2 glasses of red wine or other alcohol per day.

They found that moderate red wine drinkers had significantly better sexual function.  They scored higher on the FSFI questionnaire for sexual desire, lubrication, and overall sexual function than the other two groups.

Like apples, red wine is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.  In addition, it contains a high concentration of resveratrol which is actually a form of estrogen.

But the Italian researchers didn’t stop there.  Yet another team recruited 153 women around Milan in Northern Italy to report on sex and chocolate.  They found women who reported daily chocolate intake had significantly higher total FSFI scores as well as higher scores on sexual desire.

Like apples and red wine, chocolate is high in phytoestrogens, polyphenols and antioxidants.  Chocolate is also rich in magnesium which soothes nerves and relaxes muscles.  It also contains a compound called phenylethylamine which releases the same endorphins that flood the body during sex.

Apples, red wine and chocolate make a great recipe for better sex.  Maybe even better than sex?

Chocolate Boosts Your Brain Power, New Study Finds


The best excuse yet.

Italian scientists have found that a daily dose of cocoa acts as a dietary supplement to counteract different types of cognitive decline.

They found regularly eating cocoa was linked to improvements in working memory and visual information processing and cocoa could be particularly beneficial for certain people.

 Cocoa, is the dried and fermented bean from the cocoa tree used to make delicious chocolate treats. Cocoa has been studied extensively because, well, who wouldn’t want that job.

Over the years, it has been found that a range of naturally occurring chemicals in the cocoa bean have therapeutic effects.

For example, polyphenols in dark chocolate were found to increase calmness and contentedness and flavanols were able to reverse age-related memory decline.

Before you start using this an excuse to scoff as much chocolate as humanly possible, just remember that chocolate also contains theobromine, a toxic chemical. Though to be at risk of poisoning yourself, you’d have to eat about 85 full sized chocolate bars.

Despite the large number of claims about the health benefits of cocoa, there are only a limited number of randomised trials and the literature is a mixed bag of results.

In this study, the team looked through the literature for effects of acute and chronic administration of cocoa flavanols on brain activity and, more specifically, what happens if you do this over a long period of time.

The studies used to perform the review mainly required the subjects to consume a low, medium or large amount of cocoa in the form of a chocolate drink or bar for a period of between five days and three months.

The scientists found that there was enough evidence to support the health claims attributed to cocoa, and, in particular, the flavanol compounds it contains.

They noticed enhancements in working memory performance and improved visual information processing after consuming cocoa flavanols. The benefits varied depending on the demographic being tested.

For the elderly, it turns out that long term ingestion of cocoa flavanols improved attention, mental processing, working memory and verbal fluency and was most beneficial in those who had mild cognitive impairments or the beginnings of memory loss.

“This result suggests the potential of cocoa flavanols to protect cognition in vulnerable populations over time by improving cognitive performance,” wrote the researchersfrom the University of L’Aquila in Italy, including Valentina Socci and Michele Ferrara.

For healthy people, without the beginnings of memory loss, cocoa could also enhance normal cognitive functioning and have a protective role on cognitive performance. The researchers admit that you have to push the healthy subjects a little harder before that benefit starts to become significant.

One demographic in particular benefited from cocoa.

For women, eating cocoa after a night of total sleep deprivation counteracted the cognitive impairment associated with no sleep. Promising results for people that suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or work different shift patterns.

But how exactly does cocoa help with brain power?

The researchers aren’t completely sure, but do have some ideas.

“If you look at the underlying mechanism, the cocoa flavanols have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health and can increase cerebral blood volume… This structure is particularly affected by ageing and therefore the potential source of age-related memory decline in humans.”

So should you start shovelling chocolate into your mouth? Perhaps, but it comes with an obvious warning.

“Regular intake of cocoa and chocolate could indeed provide beneficial effects on cognitive functioning over time,” say the researchers.

“There are, however, potential side effects of eating cocoa and chocolate. Those are generally linked to the caloric value of chocolate, some inherent chemical compounds of the cocoa plant such as caffeine and theobromine, and a variety of additives we add to chocolate such as sugar or milk.”

Despite the risk of gaining a few extra kilograms, the scientists are happy to listen to their own advice and conduct a little bit of self-experimentation.

“Dark chocolate is a rich source of flavanols. So, we always eat some dark chocolate. Every day.”

I can’t think of health advice I’d be happier to listen to.

Resveratrol’s Link to Slowing Alzheimer’s


Alzheimer’s Treatment

Story at-a-glance

  • Alzheimer’s disease currently hits someone in the U.S. every 66 seconds and affects 5 million Americans annually
  • In testing high doses of resveratrol, scientists found individuals with mild Alzheimer’s were experiencing brain shrinkage until they found a certain molecule that may be responsible for decreasing brain inflammation
  • Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, raspberries and chocolate, appears to slow the encroachment of cognitive problems in Alzheimer’s patients by repairing “leaky” blood-brain barriers and stabilizing mitochondrial function

What do pomegranates, grape skin and raw cacao have in common? If your first thought was that they’re all plant-based foods, you’d be right, but if you also knew they all contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, you’d get a gold star!

Resveratrol is a polyphenol released by plants to help them resist damage from things like bacteria, excess ultraviolet light or injury, say, by aphids or other microorganisms.

The amazing thing is when you eat foods containing this compound, you, too, may experience similar benefits.

Resveratrol has been the object of scrutiny by scientists all over the world in relation to its effect on Alzheimer’s disease, which currently hits someone in the U.S. every 66 seconds and affects 5 million Americans annually.1

Alzheimer’s Disease Is on the Rise in the US

Most people know Alzheimer’s as a disease that causes memory loss. In its earliest stages, it manifests itself in small ways, such as forgetting important dates or where things are; later, checkbook balancing becomes an increasingly frustrating challenge.

More progressed Alzheimer’s patients confuse what day it is and where they are, and find words and distances difficult to discern. Following a conversation may become difficult for them. Progressively, their moods and personalities change. An Alzheimer’s Association report reveals:

“The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing — and growing fast … Of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).” 2

How and why it happens has been hypothesized about for years, but medicine has only been able to treat the systems rather than nailing down the root cause.

One of the downsides in humans, too, was that when it’s taken in, resveratrol quickly metabolizes and is eliminated, which prevents your body from gaining much benefit.3The Alzheimer’s Association website also states:

“Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.”

But in recent scientific findings, high doses of resveratrol given to individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s appeared to either slow the symptoms or stop them completely.

The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto in July 2016, providing a “bigger picture” of how resveratrol might work.

Initial Study: High-Dose Resveratrol May Hold Promise for Alzheimer’s Patients

In 2015, the journal Neurology published a year-long study4 — the largest clinical trial in the U.S. on high-dosage resveratrol — on 119 subjects with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. Principal investigator Dr. R. Scott Turner said one of the objectives was to see if high doses of resveratrol might be safe in the long term.

Half of the study subjects were given a placebo; the other, resveratrol, starting with 500 milligrams (mg) per day and ending with two doses of 1,000 mg per day.

Scientists already knew that age-related diseases in animals could be decreased by caloric restriction and that resveratrol could imitate caloric restriction by means of releasing the same sirtuin proteins thought to play a role in the regulation of skeletal muscle mitochondrial function.

Restricting caloric intake is known to alter genes related to longevity by slowing the aging process in worms, rats and fish, but there’s evidence it has the same effect on humans. As reported by Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), where the research took place:

“The researchers studied resveratrol because it activates proteins called sirtuins, the same proteins activated by caloric restriction.

The biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s is aging, and studies with animals found that most age-related diseases — including Alzheimer’s — can be prevented or delayed by long-term caloric restriction (consuming two-thirds the normal caloric intake).”5

As dementia increases, a protein known as amyloid-beta40 (Abeta40) weakens. Researchers found the resveratrol group showed higher levels of amyloid-beta proteins in their spinal fluid, and their brain volume loss was increased by resveratrol treatment compared to placebo.6 According to a CNN report:

“Although accumulation of amyloid-beta in the brain is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, patients actually have lower levels of this protein outside of the brain. The study finding suggests that resveratrol could help change the balance from amyloid-beta buildup in the brain to circulating protein in the body.”7

So when the scientists examined brain MRIs on the patients both before and after the study, they discovered that those in the resveratrol group lost more brain volume than those in the placebo group. Their supposition was that the treatments reduced the brain swelling common with Alzheimer’s sufferers.8

Those findings were called “paradoxical” and “puzzling,” providing a segway for a follow-up study.

New Findings: Inflammation Versus Resveratrol

Turner was lead investigator in the second trial on resveratrol, working with Dr. Charbel Moussa, scientific and clinical research director at GUMC. In the new clinical trial, 19 subjects received high doses of resveratrol, equal to 1,000 bottles of red wine, and another 19 received a placebo.

One of the scientists’ main goals was to investigate levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) molecules in Alzheimer’s patients’ cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Sure enough, tests showed the number decreased by 50 percent in comparison with the placebo group. Medical News Today noted:

“This is significant because MMP-9 is reduced when sirtuin1 (one of the proteins linked to caloric restriction) is activated. Higher levels of MMP-9 are known to cause a breakdown of the blood-brain barrier — a blockade that normally prevents proteins and other molecules from entering the brain.

Additionally, the team found that resveratrol increased levels of compounds linked to a long-term ‘adaptive’ immune response; this suggests an involvement of inflammatory cells that are resident in the brain. This type of reaction degrades and removes neurotoxic proteins.”9

Besides brain inflammation, Alzheimer’s patients are often further compromised by nervous tissue inflammation, linked to degraded neurons and subsequent cognitive decline, caused by the MMP-9 molecules. However, resveratrol seems to act as a sort of gatekeeper, keeping the harmful immune molecules from entering your brain.

Scientists said similar decreased brain inflammation has been noted by scientists in drugs used for patients with multiple sclerosis, another brain disease characterized by too much inflammation.

While the high resveratrol doses caused some of the study participants to experience nausea, diarrhea and either slight weight gain or weight loss, researchers said the supplements caused no other side effects.

Besides finding a more significant role that inflammation may play in causing Alzheimer’s, scientists expressed excitement about resveratrol’s measurable anti-inflammatory effects and plan further investigation.

Resveratrol Mitochondrial Benefits

A number of reviews have described other health benefits from resveratrol. The journal Nature said resveratrol improves the health and survival rate of mice on a high-calorie diet, possibly revealing a treatment option for obesity-related disorders and diseases of aging.10

Another showed resveratrol improved mitrochondria, the tiny, vital engines in nearly all your cells producing more than 90 percent of the energy currents in your body, and protected against metabolic disease, diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance.11 Mitochondrial protection via resveratrol was discussed in another study, which noted:

“Age-specific mortality rates from heart disease, stroke, complications of diabetes, Alzheimer disease and cancer increase exponentially with age …

The evidence (supports) the hypothesis that mitochondrial protective effects of resveratrol underlie its anti-aging action that can prevent/delay the development of age-related diseases in the cardiovascular system and other organs.”12

Resveratrol has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and protect against metabolic disease by its ability to activate SIRT1 and PGC-1alpha, the primary driver for mitochondrial biogenesis. Science Direct13 noted resveratrol’s potential anti-aging and anti-diabetic properties via Sirt1, essentially recharging your mitochondria. According to a review of pre-clinical studies for human cancer prevention:

“Resveratrol is known to have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects and to inhibit platelet aggregation and the growth of a variety of cancer cells.

Its potential chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activities have been demonstrated in all three stages of carcinogenesis (initiation, promotion and progression), in both chemically and UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis in mice, as well as in various murine models of human cancers.

Evidence from numerous in vitro and in vivo studies has confirmed its ability to modulate various targets and signaling pathways.”14 Still another study used mice to show that PGC-1α prevents the formation and accumulation of lactate in the muscles.15

Caveats in Regard to Obtaining Resveratrol From Your Diet

One little known but powerful source of resveratrol is itadori tea,16 a traditional herbal remedy used in Japan and China for heart disease and stroke. Both itadori tea and red wine contain high concentrations of resveratrol. But while you may be thinking of upping your red wine intake to glean the resveratrol benefits, keep in mind that alcohol can damage your brain and other organs, so it’s counterintuitive to drink it in order to help your brain.

Because resveratrol is most concentrated in the skin of grapes, and muscadine grapes are thick-skinned, this would be a better source. However, grapes are high in sugar (fructose) and should only be eaten in moderation, making it difficult to obtain therapeutic quantities of resveratrol.

Excess fructose consumption has been linked to metabolic syndrome, adverse endocrine effects, kidney damage and pancreatic cancer, to name a few problems.

My recommendation for fructose consumption is an average of around 25 grams per day, including from whole fruits. However, if you have a problem with insulin resistance, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or cancer, your fructose intake should be cut down to 15 grams.

Understand, too, that the long arm of Monsanto has reached even into grapes used to make organic wine. Studies also show that wine may contain high levels of arsenic and carcinogens. Even without those factors, it stresses your liver and increases your insulin levels, which altogether can lead to a wide array of health problems and serious illness.

Even Turner, who helped author the study, conceded that one glass of red wine a day could help with mild Alzheimer’s, but he cautioned: “No more than that.

Source:mercola.com

Chocolate makes you smarter, study suggests


People who eat chocolate at least once a week see their memory and abstract thinking improve, researchers say.

Esthechoc is chocolate that will help rejuvenate your skin

A study has found chocolate improves your cognitive ability

It’s good for your heart, reduces the risk of strokes and even helps protect your skin from the sun.

Now, another apparent benefit has been added to the list of chocolate’s nutritional qualities: it makes you smarter.

A study, published recently in the journal, Appetite, indicated that people who eat chocolate at least once a week saw their memory and abstract thinking improve.

“It’s significant – it touches a number of cognitive domains,” psychologist Merrill Elias, one of the leaders of the study, told the Washington Post.

Mr Elias began studying the cognitive abilities of more than 1,000 people in the state of New York in the 1970s, initially looking at the relationship between people’s blood pressure and brain performance.

About 15 years ago, he decided to ask participants of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) what they were eating, adding a new set of questions about dietary habits.

Leading the analysis of the study, which was held between 2001 and 2006, was Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher at the University of South Australia. Ms Crichton recognised the study presented a unique opportunity to examine the effects of chocolate on the brain, using a large sample size of just under 1,000.

Examining the mean scores on cognitive tests of participants who ate chocolate less than once a week and those who ate it at least once a week, the researchers found eating chocolate was strongly linked to superior brain function. The benefits, Ms Crichton told the Washington Post, would mean you would be better at daily tasks “such as remembering a phone number, or your shopping list, or being able to do two things at once, like talking and driving at the same time”.

In order to see whether smarter people simply tend to eat more chocolate or if the food does actually improve brain function, the researchers studied 333 participants whose cognitive abilities had been tested an average of 18 years before they were quizzed about what they eat. They found cognitive ability does not predict whether you a chocolate eater or not.

“Our study definitely indicates that the direction is not that cognitive ability affects chocolate consumption, but that chocolate consumption affects cognitive ability,” Mr Elias told the newspaper.

Why this is the case remains uncertain. However, previous studies have shown that food containing nutrients called flavanols, such as chocolate, improves brain function. In 2009, research found mental arithmetic became easier after volunteers had been given large amounts of flavanols in a hot cocoa drink.

In 2014, a study also suggested that a diet rich in cocoa could help stave off dementia-like memory loss in the elderly.

Chocolate has also found to help ward off memory loss.

Chocolate has also found to help ward off memory loss.  

However, Mr Elias stressed they weren’t suggesting people stuffed their faces with chocolate bars all week.

“I think what we can say for now is that you can eat small amounts of chocolate without guilt if you don’t substitute chocolate for a normal balanced healthy diet,” he added.

Chocolate is actually GOOD for pregnant women (just make sure you find some that’s low in cadmium


Could that enticing chocolate bar be the key to a healthy pregnancy? A new study out of Canada suggests so, revealing that regular intake of both low- and high-flavonol chocolate may help reduce a woman’s risk of preeclampsia, a condition marked by an unusual jump in blood pressure that puts her and her unborn baby’s life at risk.

Chocolate bars

The study, which was presented at the recent 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta, further found that chocolate may also help improve fetal growth and development, for reasons that aren’t yet fully understood. But one thing is clear: there are definite health benefits to be had from this sweet treat!

The randomized, controlled trial looked at 129 women who were between 11 and 14 weeks of gestation. All the women had double notching on their uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index at baseline – this just means that the women all had heavy resistance to blood flowing into their placenta, suggesting a high-risk fetal outcome such as hypertension of preeclampsia.

All the women were assigned to one of two groups given 30 grams per day of either low-flavanol or high-flavanol chocolate. At the end of 12 weeks, each woman’s uterine artery Doppler pulsatility was measured a second time, and follow-up evaluations were given to all the women until the time they gave birth.

Variances in rates of preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental weight and birthweight were virtually nonexistent between the two groups, however researchers noted significant improvements in the uterine artery Doppler pulsatility rates of women in both groups. This led them to speculate that an expectant mother who regularly eats either low- or high-flavanol chocolate could be helping to improve the growth and development of her unborn child.

“This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” stated study co-author Dr. Emmanuel Bujold from the Universite Laval in Quebec City.

Love chocolate? Just make sure your favorite brand is free of lead and cadmium

While this is good news for all the chocolate-loving, sweet-toothed women out there, it’s important to remember that not all chocolate is the same in terms of quality and purity. Some varieties of chocolate, as revealed by the Oakland, California-based non-profit group “As You Sow,” contain potentially dangerous levels of lead, cadmium and other toxic heavy metals.

As The Washington Post reported last February, some 26 different varieties of chocolate tested by As You Sow were found to contain levels of lead and cadmium exceeding the amounts currently allowed under California’s Proposition 65 toxic chemical law. The As You Sow testing sweep indicts major brands like Ghiradelli, Godiva, The Hershey Company, Mars, See’s Candies, Theo, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and more.

A complete listing of contaminated brands, as tested by As You Sow, is available here.

“We are getting [lead and cadmium] from multiple sources,” explained Eleanne Van Vliet, director of toxic chemicals research at As You Sow, during an interview following her group’s release of the findings. “The problem with those toxic heavy metals is they accumulate in the body. It’s terrible for adults, but especially for children.”

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/053297_chocolate_bars_cadmium_lead.html#ixzz42zkYXivX

Chocolate makes you smarter, study suggests


People who eat chocolate at least once a week see their memory and abstract thinking improve, researchers say.

It’s good for your heart, reduces the risk of strokes and even helps protect your skin from the sun.

Now, another apparent benefit has been added to the list of chocolate’s nutritional qualities: it makes you smarter.

A study, published recently in the journal, Appetite, indicated that people who eat chocolate at least once a week saw their memory and abstract thinking improve.

“It’s significant – it touches a number of cognitive domains,” psychologist Merrill Elias, one of the leaders of the study, told the Washington Post.

Mr Elias began studying the cognitive abilities of more than 1,000 people in the state of New York in the 1970s, initially looking at the relationship between people’s blood pressure and brain performance.

About 15 years ago, he decided to ask participants of the Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS) what they were eating, adding a new set of questions about dietary habits.

Leading the analysis of the study, which was held between 2001 and 2006, was Georgina Crichton, a nutrition researcher at the University of South Australia. Ms Crichton recognised the study presented a unique opportunity to examine the effects of chocolate on the brain, using a large sample size of just under 1,000.

Examining the mean scores on cognitive tests of participants who ate chocolate less than once a week and those who ate it at least once a week, the researchers found eating chocolate was strongly linked to superior brain function. The benefits, Ms Crichton told the Washington Post, would mean you would be better at daily tasks “such as remembering a phone number, or your shopping list, or being able to do two things at once, like talking and driving at the same time”.

In order to see whether smarter people simply tend to eat more chocolate or if the food does actually improve brain function, the researchers studied 333 participants whose cognitive abilities had been tested an average of 18 years before they were quizzed about what they eat. They found cognitive ability does not predict whether you a chocolate eater or not.

“Our study definitely indicates that the direction is not that cognitive ability affects chocolate consumption, but that chocolate consumption affects cognitive ability,” Mr Elias told the newspaper.

Why this is the case remains uncertain. However, previous studies have shown that food containing nutrients called flavanols, such as chocolate, improves brain function. In 2009, research found mental arithmetic became easier after volunteers had been given large amounts of flavanols in a hot cocoa drink.

In 2014, a study also suggested that a diet rich in cocoa could help stave off dementia-like memory loss in the elderly.

Chocolate has also found to help ward off memory loss.

Chocolate has also found to help ward off memory loss.  

However, Mr Elias stressed they weren’t suggesting people stuffed their faces with chocolate bars all week.

“I think what we can say for now is that you can eat small amounts of chocolate without guilt if you don’t substitute chocolate for a normal balanced healthy diet,” he added.

Our best chocolate cake recipes

Mary Berry’s chocolate and vanilla marble loaf cake

Mary Berry's chocolate and vanilla marble loaf cakeMary Berry’s chocolate and vanilla marble loaf cake

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Mark Hix: Ronnie's chocolate cakeMark Hix: Ronnie’s chocolate cake

River Cottage recipes: Hazelnut chocolate cake

River Cottage recipes: Hazelnut chocolate cakeRiver Cottage recipes: Hazelnut chocolate cake

Can Chocolate Really Benefit Your Heart?


Chocolate is good for your heart — sort of, maybe.

Eating up to 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of chocolate daily is linked with lowered risks of heart disease and stroke, scientists reported today (June 15) in the journal Heart. That amount of chocolate is equal to about 22 Hershey’s Kisses, two Hershey bars or two bags of M&M’s, depending on how you want to divvy up this good news.

“There does not appear to be any evidence to say that chocolate should be avoided in those who are concerned about cardiovascular risk,” the researchers concluded in their paper. Their new study is based on a meta-analysis of eight previously published studies involving a total of nearly 158,000 people.

However, the analysis comes with more caveats than Almond Joy has nuts. For example, exactly what it is about chocolate that might impart health benefits is not clear.  The scientists could not determine a cause-and-effect relationship between the two, and the observed benefits might be nothing more than a mirage, a limitation of the study design. [5 Wacky Things That Are Good for Your Health]

“There is, of course, a theoretical plausible explanation of why eating chocolate in moderation may expose some [people] to compounds — for example, flavonols — which are potentially good for risk reduction through cholesterol- and blood-pressure-lowering effects,” said Dr. Phyo Myint, a senior author of the study and a professor at the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry in Scotland.

Myint cited numerous studies demonstrating that flavonols —  which are found in many plant-based foods, including cocoa — can lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain, and make blood platelets less sticky and less likely to clot and cause a stroke.

But the majority of the participants in the eight studies in the new analysis got their chocolate by eating milk chocolate, which has considerably lower levels of flavonols than dark chocolate. This left the researchers to speculate that milk components in the chocolate — namely, calcium and fatty acids — may explain the observed effect.

There are, however, several other plausible explanations for the results that would suggest that eating a lot of chocolate isn’t necessarily healthy, the researchers admitted. For example, the people in the study who ate the most chocolate — more than 100 grams daily — were younger adults, who tend not to have heart problems.

Similarly, the researchers said the finding might be due to “reverse causation,” meaning that the people with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease avoid eating chocolate, while those who are healthier eat more. The researchers also noted that consuming too much candy and other high-calorie, sugary foods could lead to dental cavities, obesity and diabetes.

Although the risk reduction linked with chocolate consumption was statistically significant, the benefits are not particularly striking compared with those of other dietary practices associated with heart health. For example, outside the context of chocolate, the risk of developing heart disease for these participants given their age was 14.4 percent, on average, Myint said. Therefore, reducing this risk by 11 percent would lower the heart disease risk to 12.8 percent.

The study could not differentiate between the types of milk chocolate consumed, and this could have health implications as well. Myint’s hometown of Aberdeen is where people devised the now infamous deep-fried Mars bar, he said.

“The key is only to have moderate consumption [of chocolate] and ensure one does not exceed the calorie intake recommended for their height or weight,” Myint told Live Science.

Scientists invent chocolate so healthy ‘it could be eaten as medicine’


Chocolate so healthy it could be eaten as medicine has allegedly been invented by scientists.

Scientists invent chocolate so healthy 'it could be eaten as medicine'

Scientists at an American chocolate company specialising in herbal technologies claim to have developed the “medicinal” chocolate, which contains only 35 per cent fat.

Cacao, the key ingredient in chocolate, contains a variety of antioxidants and minerals, which perform health benefits such as protecting the nervous system, reducing stroke risk and lowering blood pressure.

However, cacao is extremely bitter meaning many chocolate companies sweeten their products with fat and sugar, overriding cacao’s health benefits.

Kuka Xoco, the Boston-based firm, have discovered a new de-bittering agent in the form of a little-used herb from the Andean region of Bolivia and Peru.

Using micrograms of the plant extract can completely de-bitter large amounts of unsweetened cacao, the company have claimed, developing a prototype with only 35 per cent sugar and fat.

Speaking at the World Chocolate Forum in London this week, Gregory Aharonian, president and chief scientist at Kuka Xoco, said: “This eliminates the need for sugar, sweeteners and much of the fat in chocolate, unleashing the medical benefits of cacao,” the Daily Mail reports.

The company’s long-term goal, he added, is to develop chocolate with just 10 per cent of fat and sugar.

If the unhealthy ingredients are removed from chocolate, it could be eaten medicinally, Mr Aharonian said.

The firm argue sugar is the “next nicotine”. Artificial sweeteners, they add, have been disastrous because they lead to weight gain and other problematic health complications.

Mr Aharonian also suggested the chocolate industry could double its annual profits if it also became a health food industry by removing as much fat and sugar from its products as possible.

Singing Happy Birthday Makes Cake Taste Better.


Story at-a-glance

  • Performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable – and it works whether the food is chocolate or carrots
  • Rituals may enhance enjoyment because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand
  • Being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience
  • Rituals can be useful in other areas of your life too, such as before bedtime or helping you to de-stress after work

If you want to make your food taste better, and more thoroughly enjoy the experience of a meal, it may be as simple as performing a ritual first, according to new research from the University of Minnesota.

Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ before eating birthday cake is one example, but the beauty of this finding is that it works for healthy food too, giving simple strategies you can implement today to get more enjoyment out of your food.

cake

Ritualistic Behavior Enhances the Enjoyment of Eating, Improves Flavors of Food

If you’ve ever wolfed down a meal while working, driving or engaging in another task, you probably didn’t feel too satisfied afterward, and this is partly because you didn’t take the time to sit and savor your food.

Along these lines, researchers conducted a series of experiments to test whether performing a simple ritual before eating makes the food more enjoyable, and in each case, the answer was ‘yes.’

  • Participants who broke an unwrapped piece of chocolate in half and ate one half before unwrapping and eating the other half rated the chocolate more highly, savored it more, and were willing to pay more for it than those who ate it however they wanted
  • Those who waited to eat carrots after performing a small ritual enjoyed them more than those who had no delay
  • Simply watching someone perform a ritual, such as making lemonade, was not effective at improving its taste, which suggests personal involvement in the ritual process is key

How You Can Harness the Power of Rituals

The researchers concluded that rituals may have such an impact because they force you to become more involved in the experience at hand:

“Rituals enhance the enjoyment of consumption because of the greater involvement in the experience that they prompt.”

Rather than simply eating a bar of chocolate, for instance, stopping to feel the texture in your hands, breaking it into smaller pieces and waiting to savor each bite slowly is likely to enhance your enjoyment, even allowing you to feel moresatisfied by eating less chocolate.

Of course, this should work for other foods, too, like a bowl of steamed broccoli or a handful of nuts or berries. It’s not so much the food that matters, it’s the ritual beforehand. So you could try shaking the nuts in your hand before eating them, or placing your berries in an attractive dish first to make them taste even better.

This might also mean that as you take steps to prepare your food, such as makinghomemade fermented vegetables, the preparation ‘ritual’ will enhance your enjoyment of them, providing extra incentive to spend more time in the kitchen (a major benefit for your health!).

This also helps explain why certain foods seem to taste so much better at certain times of the year, such as on Thanksgiving or other holidays that involve long-held traditions. This can backfire, too, though, if you’ve become accustomed to watching TV while you snack on chips, for instance. In this case, breaking the ritual may help you to break your reliance on an unhealthy food.

Giving Thanks Before Eating

One of the most rewarding rituals you can do before a meal is to stop and give thanks for your food. Not only might this make your food taste better, but also people who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals.

People who give thanks before they eat also tend to eat more slowly and savor the meal more so than those who do not, lending a natural transition to mindful eating, as described below.

It can bring your family together too, and it’s even been shown by visionary researcher Dr. Masaru Emoto that human thoughts and emotions can alter the molecular structure of water, with positive emotions, such as gratitude, leading tobeautiful crystalline structures within the water. Your food, of course, contains water, so giving thanks before you eat may actually be able to transform your food in beneficial ways that are only beginning to be understood.

Being Mindful When You Eat

Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. In terms of eating, this means you’re focused on your food and you’re really taking the time to chew, taste and savor each bite that goes into your mouth. Mindless eating would be the opposite. Similar to engaging in a ritual beforehand, being mindful when you eat forces you to slow down and makes you feel more connected and involved in your eating experience. There are other ‘side effects’ too, as when you eat slower you give your brain time to register that you’re full, so you’ll likely eat less.

Taking the time to thoroughly chew your food also allows you to absorb more nutrients from your food, helps you maintain a healthy weight, allows for easier digestion, and leads to fewer digestive issues like gas and bloating, all while allowing you to actually taste your food before you swallow… a novel concept if you’re used to eating on the run.

Using Rituals to Establish Healthier Habits

Rituals can be extremely powerful in all facets of your life, especially if you use them to help create healthful habits. For instance, if you want to start getting to bed earlier, washing your face and brushing your teeth can be the ritual you use to trigger your earlier bedtime. Another example would be to spend time journaling, meditating, sipping herbal tea or even changing into loungewear when you come home from work as a ‘ritual’ to de-stress from your day and switch gears into relaxation mode.

Getting back to eating, a simple ritual like lighting a candle or two and setting your table can signal to your family that it’s time for a meal together. Saying grace or giving thanks before you eat, as mentioned, is another ritualistic way to enhance the enjoyment as you eat.

The opportunities to harness the power of rituals are truly endless, and only you can determine which rituals will be the most meaningful and productive in your own life. Chances are you have quite a few rituals already, and taking a few moments to create more is a simple way to live better.