Dark Chocolate and Stomach Bacteria Interaction Yields Health Benefits
New research has uncovered why dark chocolate is good for the heart, according to WebMD News.
Scientists from Louisiana State University tested cocoa powders in a digestive tract model and found that certain stomach bacteria eat dark chocolate as voraciously as recently-dumped coeds, ferment it and then release anti-inflammatory compounds that benefit the heart.
"We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the good ones and the bad ones," Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study authors, said in a news release.
"The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate," Moore added. "When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory."
Study leader John Finley, a professor in LSU's department of food science, said, "When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke."
Finley said he believes this is the first study of its kind to study dark chocolate's effects on different types of bacteria in the stomach.
The researchers found that people who eat dark chocolate with solid fruits such as pomegranates and acai can gain even greater health benefits.
Even though these findings point to potential heart benefits, Christopher Allen from the British Heart Foundation said chocolate should still only be enjoyed in moderation.
"Though flavanols are found in dark chocolate, this doesn't mean we can reach for a chocolate bar and think we're helping our hearts. Flavanols are often destroyed by processing and by the time a chocolate bar lands on the supermarket shelf it will also contain added extras such as sugar and fat," Allen said.
"Eating lots of sugary and fatty foods can lead to obesity and type-2 diabetes, which are major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes," he added.
The findings from LSU have yet to be peer-reviewed.