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Message from Dr. Al Sears on Chocolate #FB

February 19, 2010

From Dr. Al Sears…

If you ate chocolate on Valentine’s Day, I have some news for you. You don’t have to feel guilty.

In fact, I have evidence that you may have cut your risk from dying of a stroke nearly in half.

Two studies give us great news about chocolate.

The first study found that people who ate one serving of chocolate per week were 22% less likely to have a stroke.1

The second study found that people who ate 50 grams of chocolate once a week were 46% less likely to die following a stroke than those who didn’t eat chocolate.2

About 80% of strokes occur when there isn’t enough blood getting to the brain.3 Your brain is starved of oxygen and nutrients and begins to die immediately.

Chocolate helps to counteract that in two ways. It’s rich in antioxidants and helps to increase circulation.

You may get a rush of pleasure when you bite into a piece of chocolate. But chocolate gives you more than instant gratification. Chocolate is filled with antioxidants called flavonoids. Flavonoids protect the body.

Flavonoids fight silent inflammation, which is the leading cause of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and many others.4

You can find flavonoids in vegetables, tea, and red wine, but cocoa has more flavonoids.5 In fact, dark chocolate contains up to four times the antioxidants found in tea.6

But that’s not all this Valentine’s Day treat can do.

The flavonol-rich cocoa in chocolate is also a vasodilator.7 It widens blood vessels so circulation is improved. This brings an increased blood flow to the brain. It helps to lower blood pressure and improve heart function. Vasodilators like the cocoa in chocolate also help to increase circulation to sexual organs so they’re ready to respond when you are.

No wonder the scientific name for cocoa translates to “food of the gods.”

When you’re looking for a good source of chocolate, keep this in mind:

  • Look for chocolate that contains 70% or more cocoa. This is the ingredient that contains health benefits.
  • Check how much sugar is added to the chocolate you choose. Keep it as low as possible. But choose sugar over artificial sweeteners or chocolate labeled “sugar free.”
  • Beware of other chemicals in the chocolate. Choose a brand that has pure ingredients and no chemical additives.
  • Make chocolate your special treat of choice once a week.

You can find good quality chocolate at a health-food store. More and more it’s finding its way into grocery and drug stores. Read the label to be sure of the quality and content.

1 “Can Chocolate Lower Your Risk of Stroke?” American Academy of Neurology. Accessed 02 2010.
2 Ibid.
3 “Causes of Strokes.”
4 Wang, J.F., Schramm, D. D., et al. “A Dose-Response Effect from Chocolate Consumption on Plasma Epicatechin and Oxidative Damage,” Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:2115S-2119S.
5 Ki Won Lee, KW., Kim, YJ., et al. “Cocoa Has More Phenolic Phytochemicals and a Higher Antioxidant Capacity than Teas and Red Wine” J. Agric. Food Chem. 2003; 51(25):7292–7295.
6 I.Arts, P.Hollman, D.Kromhout “Chocolate as a source of tea flavonoids,” The Lancet. 354; (9177): 488-488.
7 Fisher, N., Hughes, M., et al. “Flavanol-rich cocoa induces nitric-oxide-dependent vasodilation in healthy humans,” Journal of Hypertension: 2003. 21; (12):2281-2286.

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