The Essence of Chocolate

Nutrition had a very nice and comprehensive editorial on the essence of chocolate. It mentions the recently discovered profitable effects of chocolate on the human physiology often mentioned on this blog.

In short:

  • Reduction of blood pressure by 6 grams of dark chocolate per day. Probably due to the flavonol epicatechin
  • Reduction of platelet and endothelial cell activation
  • Reduction of inflammatory mediators
  • It can also inhibit oral caries
  • It can cross the blood brain barrier and increase cerebral blood flow in humans

Rightly the authors question the effects of chocolate on mood and it’s possible addictive potential. As written before on this blog, chocolate is not an antidepressant and chocolate craving is a difficult concept consisting of different features.

The authors explain that chocolate as used nowadays is completely different from how it was probably originally consumed as a frothy, tart-tasting, and mildly alcoholic beverage among the Olmec and Maya. Those days it also was a critical source of calories in a calorie-constrained society. For the history of chocolate read Cacao and Chocolate Timeline

Their conclusion on the still obscured effects of chocolate on health in general and the mind more specifically explains the controversies in results and interpretations of different research on chocolate:

Unraveling the components of a lipid-rich, small molecule–laden foodstuff that varies by genetics, fermentation method, and the chocolate-making process is a tall order. So, perhaps the answer lies in understanding the pharmacology of specific chocolate formulations rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach to this age-old problem.
McShea, A., Leissle, K., & Smith, M. (2009). The essence of chocolate: A rich, dark, and well-kept secret Nutrition, 25 (11-12), 1104-1105 DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2009.05.012