Here’s what I would have for my last meal (if I knew when that would be). Since it’s the last meal we can dispense with eating healthy. I would start with a chocolate cake covered with chocolate icing served with chocolate ice cream teeming with chocolate syrup supporting a chocolate covered strawberry. Plus, I would have a side of chocolate cheesecake. I would wash it down with a chocolate shake. And, for dessert I would devour, yet savor a half-dozen chocolate Hershey® bars. Sounds healthy, right? Well, it may not be as unhealthy as it seems, outside of course the extreme sugar load. There are plenty of health benefits of cocoa.
Health Benefits of Cocoa
Cocoa-rich dark chocolate has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. This recent study showed that consumption of dark chocolate for 3 months improved heart failure and even diabetes. It looks from that study that cocoa repaired damaged mitochondria, the organelles in the cells that produce energy.
This study from Sweden surveyed the chocolate consumption of 1,100 people who survived a first heart attack. They were followed for 8 years. Those who consumed more chocolate were less likely to die from heart disease. Those who ate chocolate 2 or more times per week saw a reduction in cardiac mortality of 66% compared to those who did not eat chocolate. There was a 44% reduction in cardiac mortality for those who ate chocolate once a week, and a 27% reduction in those who ate chocolate once a month.
Cocoa and Nitric Oxide
Some of our recent posts have discussed the health benefits of nitric oxide. Cocoa improves endothelial function (how much blood vessels can relax and widen) up to 60% to 70%. A result of this is better blood flow. In essence, cocoa makes the blood vessels more flexible. Other studies have shown cocoa to lower blood pressure and increase nitric oxide production.
One of my patients is a cardiologist. He had the best nitric oxide levels I’ve seen. For the previous 3 months or so he started taking a cocoa product called CocoaVia™ which contains 350 mg of cocoa extracts (in the first study cited 100 mg of cocoa was used). CocoaVia™ can be mixed into yogurt, coffee, milk, shakes, etc. It comes in an unsweetened and sweetened options. So that’s another option for improving nitric oxide levels. See “Nitric Oxide Foods”. Also, see “Beer, Chocolate, Good for You?”.
Now if you’ll excuse me. Writing this post made me hungry. It’s time to obtain the health benefits of cocoa.