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The next time you eat a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, a number of health benefits may be associated with this delicious treat.
Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds. Its earliest use dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica.
After the European discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded.
Chocolate has since become a popular food product that millions enjoy every day, thanks to its unique, rich, and sweet taste.
But what effect does eating chocolate have on our health?
Here are some key points about chocolate. More detail is in the main article.
Chocolate consumption has long been associated with conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.
Chocolate is believed to contain high levels of antioxidants.
Some studies have suggested chocolate could lower cholesterol levels and prevent memory decline.
Chocolate contains a large number of calories.
People who are seeking to lose or maintain weight should eat chocolate only in moderation.
Chocolate receives a lot of bad press because of its high fat and sugar content. Its consumption has been associated with acne, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.
However, according to a review of chocolate’s health effects published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine, it’s not all bad news.
The authors point to the discovery that cocoa, the key ingredient in chocolate, contains biologically active phenolic compounds.
This has changed people’s views on chocolate, and it has stimulated research into how it might impact aging, and conditions such as oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis.
Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.
Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.
The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.
Lead author, Farzaneh A. Sorond, said:
“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”
Results of a lab experiment, published in 2014, indicated that a cocoa extract, called lavado, might reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This extract could help slow symptoms such as cognitive decline.
Another study, published in 2016 in the journal Appetite, suggests eating chocolate at least once weekly could improve cognitive function.