Many former studies on chocolate have revealed the multiplicities of health it can bestow on human beings. Dark chocolate, derived from cacao, can reduce the incidence of diabetes, boost heart health, and improve our mood. Tufts University found that chocolate even improves the quality of our blood. Other researchers determined that theobromine in chocolate can help reduce dental cavities, and Penn State found out that chocolate can reduce belly fat, lessening the risk of obesity related diseases. Until now, researchers had no idea exactly why chocolate has been coveted for century upon century.
Researchers have just reported that dark chocolate causes certain bacteria in the gut to ferment compounds and make its own anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart as well as numerous other health conditions. It turns out that dark chocolate specifically, which isn’t the watered-down and high in milk-fats and sugar like milk chocolate, creates ‘good’ microbes which leads to a balanced gut flora.
Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study’s researchers explains:
“We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones. The good microbes, ferment it [chocolate], producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.”
The other, ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut are associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. These include some Clostridia and some Escherichia coli. Good bacteria growth helps to reduce ‘bad’ bacteria growth.
The findings of the study were revealed at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas.
John Finley, Ph.D., who led this first study to look at the effects of dark chocolate on the various bacteria in the stomach, reported that:
“When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.”
He further detailed that cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several polyphenolic, or antioxidant, compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, and a small amount of dietary fiber. Both components are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over.
“In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity,” he said.
So, enjoy your dark chocolate. It’s making your gut flora very happy, indeed.