Probiotic Healthy Chocolate

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Eat Chocolate For Lower Blood Pressure?

Eating 30 Calories Per Day of Dark Chocolate May Lower High Blood Pressure
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 3, 2007 — The health benefits of dark chocolate may include lowering high blood pressure, German researchers report.

But overindulging in dark chocolate might blow your calorie budget, and packing on pounds could raise blood pressure. So portion control may help you have your dark chocolate and reap its health benefits, the new study suggests.

Small amounts of dark chocolate “efficiently reduced blood pressure,” report the researchers, who included Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, of Germany’s University Hospital of Cologne.

How small is a small amount of dark chocolate? Participants in Taubert’s study were limited to 30 calories per day of dark chocolate. That’s roughly the number of calories in a Hershey’s Kiss.

Dark Chocolate Benefit?

Taubert’s study included 44 adults aged 56-73 in Duisburg, Germany.

The 24 women and 20 men had mild high blood pressure ( hypertension) or borderline blood pressure that fell just short of hypertension. They were otherwise healthy and weren’t taking blood pressure drugs or nutritional supplements.

Taubert’s team split participants into two similar groups.

One group got 30-calorie daily doses of dark chocolate for 18 weeks. The researchers checked the amount of cocoa in the German chocolate bars.

For comparison, the other group got a similar daily dose of “white chocolate,” which doesn’t contain chocolate liquor or cocoa.

Both groups got the same instructions: Take your chocolate dose two hours after dinner, don’t change your normal diet and fitness habits, and keep a diet and exercise diary.

Dark Chocolate and High Blood Pressure

Participants in the dark chocolate study got blood pressure tests and checkups at the study’s start, midpoint, and end.

By the end of the study, those eating dark chocolate lowered their systolic blood pressure by nearly three points and their diastolic blood pressure by almost two points, on average.

Systolic blood pressure is the first, or top, number in a blood pressure reading. Diastolic blood pressure is the second, or bottom, number in a blood pressure reading.

Blood pressure didn’t budge for better or worse in the white chocolate group.

‘Modest’ Benefit From Dark Chocolate

“Although the magnitude of the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy,” Taubert’s team writes.

They note that larger studies are needed and that they’re not sure whether the results apply to people with milder blood pressure or hypertension patients with other health problems.

The study doesn’t show exactly how dark chocolate affects blood pressure. But the researchers note that compounds called flavanols in cocoa may play a role.

Other studies have also shown a link between dark chocolate or cocoa and better blood pressure. However, those studies typically involved bigger doses of chocolate or cocoa to get those benefits, Taubert’s team notes.

Their study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, doesn’t promise that dark chocolate is all that’s needed to beat blood pressure. A healthy diet, exercise, and losing excess weight are important for lowering high blood pressure.

But eating a small amount of dark chocolate daily is a dietary change that’s “easy to adhere to,” the researchers note.

The study was funded by the University Hospital of Cologne. In the journal, none of the researchers report financial ties to any chocolate companies.

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The Best Sports Drink Ever, Brought to You by C.O.W.S.

Forget the Gatorade, pass up the Powerade; your best bet for a post workout recovery might be the product of cows and cocoa beans.

A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metanolism caused waves when it concluded that chocolate milk was an effective recovery aid beween workouts.

The scientists found that both time to exhaustion and total work performed by the individuals in the study were significantly greater for chocolate milk as compared to the other sports drinks.

The conclusion of th estudy was that low fat chocolate milk could indeed be an effective replacement for the most popular fluid and carb recovery drinks on the market shelves, due to the high carb and protein content provided by chocolate milk.

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How Healthy Chocolate Changed My Life

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Chocolate can do good things for your heart, skin and brain

By Marjorie Ingall
Health.com

Listen to the way people malign chocolate: Sinful! Decadent! To die for! There’s even that popular restaurant dessert known as “Death by Chocolate.” But is this any way to talk about a loved one — especially during the season of comfort and joy?

Bite your tongue! Evidence is mounting that some kinds of chocolate are actually good for you. Here’s the latest about the healthy side of your chocolate habit and taste-tested advice on what to try. Merry munching.

A happier heart

Scientists at the Harvard University School of Public Health recently examined 136 studies on coco — the foundation for chocolate — and found it does seem to boost heart health, according to an article in the European journal Nutrition and Metabolism.

“Studies have shown heart benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, and improved bad cholesterol,” says Mary B. Engler, Ph.D., a chocolate researcher and director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing. These benefits are the result of cocoa’s antioxidant chemicals known as flavonoids, which seem to prevent both cell damage and inflammation.

Better blood pressure

If yours is high, chocolate may help. Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, recently found that hypertensive people who ate 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate per day for two weeks saw their blood pressure drop significantly, according to an article in the journal Hypertension. Their bad cholesterol dropped, too.

People who ate the same amount of white chocolate? Nothing. (It doesn’t have any cocoa — or flavonoids.) Word to the wise: 3.5 ounces is roughly equal to a big bar of baking chocolate, so the participants had to cut about 400 calories out of their daily diets to make room. But you probably don’t have to go to those lengths. Just a bite may do you good, Blumberg says.

Muscle magic

Chocolate milk may help you recover after a hard workout. In a small study at Indiana University, elite cyclists who drank chocolate milk between workouts scored better on fatigue and endurance tests than those who had some sports drinks. Yoo-hoo!

TLC for your skin

German researchers gave 24 women a half-cup of special extra-flavonoid-enriched cocoa every day. After three months, the women’s skin was moister, smoother, and less scaly and red when exposed to ultraviolet light. The researchers think the flavonoids, which absorb UV light, help protect and increase blood flow to the skin, improving its appearance.

Brain gains

It sounds almost too good to be true, but preliminary research at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University suggests chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain. Chocolate companies found comparable gains in similar research on healthy young women and on elderly people.

Good loving (maybe)

Finally, Italian researchers wanted to know whether chocolate truly is an aphrodisiac. In a survey of 143 women published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, those who ate chocolate every day seemed to have more sex drive, better lubrication, and an easier time reaching orgasm. Pass the Godiva, right?

Not so fast. The women who ate chocolate were all younger than the ones who didn’t; it was age and not chocolate that made the difference. Still, if a double-chocolate raspberry truffle puts you in the mood, why let science get in the way?

New York–based writer Marjorie Ingall loves milk chocolate but says she’s ready to go dark this year

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Product Review: TRU Chocolate vs. Xocai

Product Review:

A “True” Comparison, by Doctor Steven Warren, M.D., D.P.A.

-Xocai Healthy Antioxidant Chocolate vs. TRU Chocolate – What’s the difference?

I have been approached by a number of people asking my opinion on TRU Chocolate, another “healthy” chocolate being sold via MLM. I conducted a thorough examination of the information and science available, and the following are my conclusions.

TRU Chocolate is a relatively new chocolate product sold through the Youngevity network marketing company. The company itself has been around for years, selling all kinds of health supplements, makeup, home and garden chemicals, and now chocolate. I counted over 80 different items on their product overview webpage.

So, the big question is, how does TRU Chocolate stack up against Xocai, the Healthy Chocolate™?

ORAC Comparison

First off, let’s compare ORAC values. You might remember that ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is how scientists measure the antioxidant capacities of food and nutritional supplements. The higher the ORAC value, the better the product is in countering the damage done by harmful free radicals in the body.

As with Xocai, one of the main marketing “hooks” with TRU Chocolate is its ORAC value. Youngevity touts that TRU Chocolate has an ORAC rating of 3040 per eight gram piece. This actually compares favorably with Xocai products such as the Xocai Nugget™ (3120 per 12g piece) and X Power Squares™ (3582 per 6g piece).

One big concern I have is that nowhere on the package labeling is there an independent verification of the ORAC claims made by Youngevity about TRU Chocolate. MXI Corp, the manufacturers of the Xocai product line, submits actual products to Brunswick Labs for independent testing and measurement. I have personally spoken with the Brunswick scientists and read their reports, so I’m comfortable that the Xocai ORAC values are properly documented.

My suspicion is that Youngevity has merely taken the ORAC values for different ingredients in their product (we’ll talk more about this later), and used these figures to calculate an ORAC value, rather than actually having their product tested by an independent laboratory.

If we look at a comparison of ORAC value by price, we see that a typical month’s supply of TRU Chocolate is 6 bags (total of 720 grams) of product for $120 (wholesale). That works out to $0.1667 per gram, or $0.0005 per antioxidant ORAC unit ($120/ 237,600 ORAC units total).

A month’s supply of Xocai X Power Squares totals 828g of product, and sells for $110 wholesale. That comes to $0.1328 per gram, or $0.00025 pre antioxidant ORAC unit ($110 / 436,800 ORAC units total).

Clearly, TRU Chocolate costs twice the amount of Xocai X Power Squares™ when compared on a per-ORAC basis.

What’s Inside?

Next, let’s take a look at what’s inside TRU Chocolate.

According to Youngevity’s labeling, TRU Chocolate contains, organic chocolate liquor, organic cocoa butter, xylitol, and a herbal formula of momordica charantia, noni fruit, citrus extract, ellagic acid, green tea extract, Fabanol®, Bioprene®, lectin, and organic lecithin.

“Chocolate liquor” is an industry term for cocoa mass that is produced by taking cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted and separated from their shells, and grinding the cotyledon at the center.

The problem here is that this method of processing cocoa results in a poor end product in terms of flavanols contained. You might have learned from some of my other work that the flavanols in cocoa are responsible for most of the amazing health benefits science has been uncovering over the past several years.

Only cold processing, a patented method used by MXI Corp in their Xocai™ line of chocolate, preserves enough flavanol content for the chocolate to really be considered “healthy.” Whether the chocolate liquor is “organic” (implying somehow that the chocolate is healthy) is beside the point. How the cocoa is processed determines what health benefits, if any, are retained in the finished chocolate product.

Another concern I have about the ingredients in TRU Chocolate is the caffeine content. The addition of green tea extract, in addition to the cocoa processing method, will result in a product much higher in caffeine than necessary. Sure, caffeine has some weight-reducing properties due to its capacity to increase the body’s metabolism, but there are also quite a few side effects, including “jitteriness,” elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, nausea, sleep difficulty, etc.

Properly processed cocoa will have only trace amounts of caffeine. The true mood-enhancing properties in cocoa are found in a chemical called theobromine, which has none of the unwanted side effects of caffeine.

Along with the added caffeine jitters you might get from TRU Chocolate, you can also expect to experience diarrhea from not only the xylitol (a natural, but by no means “calorie-free” sweetener), but also the Fabanol® (a carbohydrate blocker), as well as Bioprene™ (flavor-enhancement derivative from black peppers).

Let me be clear: such side effects are not generally associated with cocoa. In my opinion, the added ingredients in TRU Chocolate lead to unhealthy weight loss.

Again, for me the “kicker” is that Youngevity does not disclose the amount of flavonoids in their product. And it’s obvious that much of their claim of ORAC comes from the other ingredients added to make up for the lost flavanols in the cocoa.

Both Xocai™ and TRU Chocolate contain the same levels of natural sugars (Xocai uses a low-glycemic raw cane crystals), but pregnant women are strongly (and rightfully) advised in the literature not to consume some of the TRU Chocolate products due to some of the ingredients.

By way of ingredient comparison, Xocai™ uses unprocessed, cold pressed cocoa with cocoa butter; not vegetable oils. The correct amount of cocoa in Xocai products provides quantifiable benefits without the side effects of both the caffeine and xylitol present in TRU Chocolate. The slow released sugars in Xocai (i.e. raw cane crystals) allow Xocai’s patented cocoa to naturally push the sugars into the cells to be used for fuel. Remember, you need sugar to survive, but it must be in the right amounts in addition to being in the correct form. Xocai™ can also be a great source of fiber which is necessary for good health.

Misleading Comparisons

The TRU Chocolate website includes a comparison of their product to Xocai. I just wanted to address some of the misleading representations.

First, while Xocai™ does contain sugar, the sugar in Xocai™ are raw can juice crystals. This is a low-glycemic sugar that does not boost insulin levels in the blood stream like a regular processed sugar. As a matter of fact, Xocai™ products are diabetic friendly.

Next, TRU Chocolate claims to include organic ingredients that Xocai™ does not have. My question here is what support Youngevity gives for their claims of “organic.” Their packaging does not explain exactly what their definition of organic is. Xocai™ products have no artificial colors, artificial flavors, or fillers. This is a claim that TRU Chocolate just cannot make.

Youngevity falsely claims that Xocai™ contains no cocoa butter. Xocai™ chocolate does indeed contain cocoa butter, which is a neutral fat. The Xocai™ labeling identifies this as a saturated fat, which causes panic in some people who think all fats are bad. The truth is that cocoa butter is a scientifically proven neutral (non-absorbed) fat.

Lastly, Youngevity makes the curious claim that the cocoa powder in Xocai™ products is a “chemically processed food that is the ‘waste product’ of the chocolate manufacturing process.” To be honest, I’m not even sure where to begin to address this claim.

Let’s be clear: Xocai™ products use cacao that is blanched, unfermented, sun-dried, non-roasted and cold-pressed, which means it boasts eight times the levels of epicatechins and catechins (flavonoids), and four times the levels of procyanidins (another flavonoid) than cacao produced with standard processing. Xocai™ products (the entire product, not just the separate ingredients) are independently tested by Brunswick Labs, guaranteed to contain the levels of flavonoids and ORAC value found on the packaging.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that TRU Chocolate is a product with insufficient amounts of the right ingredients, and too much of the wrong ones. I fully expect that you will be seeing many more so-called healthy chocolate products coming on the market in the next few years, as science continues to support what we already know about the health benefits of dark chocolate, but unless these products are created with the right formulations and through the correct processes, there won’t be much that is healthy about them at all.

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Cocoa in World History

Cocoa in World History

There is no denying that cocoa has played a major role in the development of both Mesoamerican and European History. Even today, fortunes are won and lost on the price fluctuations of this highly sought-after commodity, as traders bet on the moves of cocoa futures. Cocoa is produced in mass amounts in only a handful of countries around the world, many of which are not always politically or economically stable.

Recent discoveries in Honduras showed traces of cocoa on cups and plates dating back to 2000 B.C. Between 200 and 900 A.D., the Mayan culture celebrated cocoa as a central part of their agriculture, economy, medicine and religion.

Still used today, the word ―cacao‖ is derived from ancient Olmec and subsequent Mayan languages (―kakaw‖), while the term ―cacahuatl,‖ also related to the root origin of cacao, is from ancient Aztec.

In 1737, Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaeus named the tree that produces these unsightly, yet highly prized cocoa bean pods ―Theobroma cacao‖—literally meaning ―cocoa, food of the gods,‖ in a reference to the mythical history of the tree among ancient Mesoamericans.

Cocoa as Medicine

While cocoa was a celebrated and valued part of ancient Mesoamerican society, ancient records have also revealed more than 150 uses of cocoa for medicinal purposes.

The Europeans were first introduced to cocoa by the Spanish conquistadors around 1505 A.D. By the mid-1600s, European healers were ―prescribing‖ cocoa as a medicine to stimulate the health function of the spleen and digestive tract as well as a cure for all manner of other ailments and diseases. Cocoa was valued as a means to heal colds and cough attacks, enhance mental acuity, fight inflammation and improve overall nutrition.

Some Noted Mentions of Cocoa in History

Thomas Jefferson: “The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain”(1).

William Clark (famed explorer): “I felt my Self [sic] very unwell and derected [sic] a little Chocolate which Mr. McClellan gave us, prepared of which I drunk about a pint and found great relief…”

Baron Justus von Liebig (German chemist): “Chocolate is a perfect food, as wholesome as it is delicious, a beneficent restorer of exhausted power. It is the best friend of those engaged in literary pursuits.”
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (lawyer, politician): “It has been shown as proof positive that carefully prepared chocolate is as healthful a food as it is pleasant; that it is nourishing and easily digested… that it is above all helpful to people who must do a great deal of mental work.”

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Healthy Chocolate Science Update – Q1 2009

Healthy Chocolate Science Update – Q1 2009

In this paper, I will examine the influence of manufacturing processes on the availability of flavonols contained in cocoa beans. I will also present the most recent research conducted in 2008 on cocoa and health, and connect the results of the University of Utah study on Xocai with other pertinent studies.

A 2008 study completed by researchers in Spain examined the impact of manufacturing processes on cocoa powder. The researchers found that ―dutching‖ (or alkalinization) of cocoa powder resulted in a 60% loss of total flavonoid capacity. While dutching might make cocoa more palatable by removing bitterness, it also robs cocoa of most of the beneficial properties associated with flavonoids.

Even the process of fermenting cocoa beans contributes to the loss of potent flavonoids.
This study also showed a 67% loss of the (-)-epicatechin, which is the main powerhouse flavonoid in cocoa.

Need more convincing? The researchers also discovered that dutching contributes to an 86% loss of the other important flavonol in cocoa—quercetin. Quercitin is a very potent antioxidant and free-radical scavenger that was not even reported to be found in cocoa before.
Pound-for-pound, unprocessed cocoa contains as much quercetin as broccoli, apples, or red grapes.

As recently as August 2008, a study reported the discovery of dietary resveratrol in cocoa powder (about half as much as an average California red wine), further bolstering the argument of cocoa as a beneficial food.
Why is the preservation (or even enhancement) of cocoa polyphenols of such great importance? The answer is two-fold: the obvious biological activity of polyphenols, combined with the limited absorption of polyphenols in the gut. This means the more potent the cocoa, the more beneficial to the consumer. Epicatechin demonstrates the highest absorption in the blood, which is why it is important to maximize the amount available in the product.

Several studies have examined the absorption of flavanols into the bloodstream (―bioavailability‖). These studies found that the gastric environment has little-to-no effect on polyphenols. Epicatechins and catechins are readily absorbed by the upper intestinal gut into the bloodstream. Epicatechin metabolites (glucuronide, sulfate, and methyl) are found in blood plasma very soon after being after hitting the intestinal gut. The larger molecules of flavanols not absorbed in the small intestine travel to, and are metabolized by, bacteria in the large intestine, producing other beneficial polyphenols. These valuable compounds can be found even up to six or 12 hours after the cocoa product has been ingested.

These studies also discovered epicatechin metabolites and quercetin in the brain bloodstream soon after the ingestion of cocoa.

Another important factor to consider is whether an increase of polyphenols increase antioxidant levels in the blood. Studies have found definite increases in blood ORAC levels associated with cocoa consumption, indicating that the flavonoids are being utilized by the body. The ORAC (oxygen-radical absorbance capacity) test measures the capacity of a compound to absorb or neutralize oxygen-free radicals, which are harmful to the body. An increased presence of antioxidants gives the body another weapon to fight damaging molecules that are created inside the body every day.

An increase of total serum glutathione, also shown in these studies, indicates that the flavonol molecules are actually doing their jobs inside the living body. Glutathione (a protein found inside cells) is essential for the function of immune cells and disease-fighting. Another interesting and informative test determines whether the metabolites, or breakdown products, of the flavonoids are found in the urine. Presence of metabolites in urine indicates that the molecules are being used by the body. One of the easiest molecules to check in urine is isoprostane—a molecule that damages the body. If antioxidants are absorbed and functioning correctly, there should be a reduced level of isoprostane found in urine. High levels of isoprostane are associated with increased risk for dementia.

The study performed in 2008 by the University of Utah showed statistically significant increases of ORAC levels in blood plasma, increases of glutathione levels in plasma, and decreases in isoprostane levels found in urine. University of Utah researchers found these results using both a standard dose of Xocai Active™ (one ounce, three times per day), as well as an increased dose (three ounces, three times per day). These findings confirmed other reports of increased serum ORAC levels, increased glutathione levels, and decreased isoprostane levels found in other ―in-vivo‖ tests (tests performed in the human body) with dark cocoa powder.

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Cocoa is KING when it comes to Antioxidants!

What is in cocoa that provides all of these benefits?

Cocoa is a complex food. There are over 300 different components found in cocoa, but the processing methods used play a major role in whether cocoa retains its beneficial properties.

The major components of cocoa are cocoa butter (a neutral fat, consisting of oleic, stearic, and palmitic fatty acids), minerals (copper, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium), theobromine (and trace amounts of caffeine), and the ―mood chemicals‖—PEA, tyramine, tryptophan, and serotonin.

Actually, this is just a small list of the chemicals found in cocoa.

But we mustn’t overlook the polyphenols contained in cocoa.

Polyphenols are what bring the majority of health benefits from this amazing product. Polyphenols consist of a large class of compounds that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits found in fruits and vegetables.

One class of these polyphenols is called flavonoids, which can be further categorized into smaller families (flavanones, flavones, flavonols, flavanols (flavan-3-ols), anthocyanins, and isoflavones).

Now, we can further break down the flavanol family into (1) single compounds (―monomeric compounds‖ –epicatechins and catechins) and (2) combined compounds (―oligomeric compounds‖—procyanidins). These substances are the true backbone of the health properties of cocoa.

Epicatechin is the predominant polyphenol in cocoa, and accounts for the majority of the health benefits we get when we eat properly processed cocoa. Cocoa is one of the most polyphenol-rich foods to be found anywhere on our glorious green planet. But, some or most of the beneficial components can be stripped away and completely wasted, depending on how the cocoa bean is processed. Lose the valuable chemical components, lose the health benefits.

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