As with everything, consume in moderation, but if used responsibly, chocolate can be beneficial to your health. And just in time for Valentines day, the American Chemical Society announced in a press release today that they have discovered “why” chocolate can be beneficial to your health.
Chocolate’s Healthy Benefits
Scientists at the ACS are reporting that they finally know how Chocolate boosts the body’s production of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL – also known as “the good cholesterol”). Good cholesterol is what helps protect against heart disease.
Just as those boxes of chocolates can get heart throbbing and mouths salivating, the polyphenols in chocolate rev-up the activity of specific proteins. They stimulate the proteins which attach to DNA in ways which help to boost HDL levels. The full report of their findings appear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It’s one of 39 peer-reviewed scientific journals published by the American Chemical Society.
Increases The Good, Decreases The Bad
Midori Natsume, Ph.D., and her colleagues found that cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease by boosting levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, and decreasing levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or the “bad” cholesterol. Credit for those heart-healthy effects goes to the cornucopia of antioxidant compounds in cocoa called polyphenols, which are especially abundant in dark chocolates. Until now, however, nobody knew exactly how the polyphenols in cocoa orchestrated those beneficial effects.
The scientists analyzed the effects of cocoa polyphenols on cholesterol using cultures of human liver and intestinal cells. They focused on the production of apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), a protein that is the major component of “good” cholesterol, and apolipoprotein B (ApoB), the main component of “bad” cholesterol.
It turns out that cocoa polyphenols increased ApoA1 levels and decreased ApoB levels in both the liver and intestine. Further, the scientists discovered that the polyphenols seem to work by enhancing the activity of so-called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs). SREBPs attach to the genetic material DNA and activate genes that boost ApoA1 levels, increasing “good” cholesterol. The scientists also found that polyphenols appear to increase the activity of LDL receptors, proteins that help lower “bad” cholesterol levels.
Bonus Chocolate facts: The word “chocolate” has its origins in the Aztec language. It comes from the word “Xocolatl”, which means “bitter water”.
Every space mission by the U.S. and Russia have included chocolate of some sort, usually chocolate bars.
Source – Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry