Friday, March 21, 2014


Chocolate has always been a controversial food item with diverse views regarding its effect on the human body. While many food scientists believe that the basic component in chocolate viz Cocoa powder is a desirable substance as it is rich in polyphenolic chemicals, it is the processed food industry which converts a healthy food into an unhealthy one by loading too much sugar and extra fat in the form of cocoa butter. Probably this realization by many consumers has given rise to a new trend in chocolate consumption with dark chocolates emerging as a healthy food due to high cocoa solid content and low fat. It is amazing that to day there are chocolate products containing as high as 90% cocoa solids and though these are bitter to taste, consumers seem to be yearning for them because of their health protecting credentials. In a new finding the scientists are reported to have unveiled the mechanism of action by dark chocolates in the body that is beneficial to human health. Here is a gist of these new findings which can have far reaching implications as far as human health is concerned.   

"It has long been known that eating chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, has numerous health benefits. Although various studies have backed this up, the exact reason as to why this is so has remained a mystery. Now researchers from Louisiana State University have provided the answer – gut microbes. Presenting their findings at the 27th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the researchers revealed that, unlike so-called "bad" bacteria in the gut, such as some Clostridia and some E. coli, that are associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, "good" bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feed on dark chocolate to produce anti-inflammatory compounds."

While the above finding opens up a vast vista for researching further into cocoa's impact in human diet, there is an inherent limitation in suggesting that bitter chocolate is a panacea for ensuring good health. It is not yet clear as to how much quantity needs to be consumed daily to derive the full benefits from their consumption and what will be the effect of over consumption by health freaks to boost their health in a hurry! Similarly there is caveat that bitter chocolate's effect can be realized only when the gut bacterial make up is right! Over whelming presence of friendly bacteria in the GI can only convert the complex poly phenolic constituents into easily absorbable simple fragments.  Bitter chocolate per se is a product highly bitter to taste in absence sufficient sugar and hence there is a limitation as to how much can be tolerated by the consumer. Probably substituting sugar with non-calorie sweeteners may hold key to making them more acceptable to many consumers. 


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