We know that cocoa and dark chocolate are powerful anti-inflammatory foods. And we know that one of the major concerns of inflammation is cardiovascular disease. Many studies now show that chronic, low-grade inflammation is a primary contributor to artherosclerosis, stroke, and other forms of cardiovascular disease.
So how does healthy dark chocolate reduce inflammation?
Dark chocolate or cold processed cocoa protect from free radicals. Free radicals, also known as oxidants, are a major contributor to inflammation in the body. The damage (or injury) they cause to cells and tissues spurs a continuous inflammatory response. The good news is that hundreds of studies now show that cocoa and its primary nutrients can protect the body from free-radical damage or oxidative stress. Chocolate especially made with cold processed dark cocoa, has a high ORAC value.
Dark chocolate reduces Cytokines and Interleukin-1 beta
Researchers have found that cocoa flavonoids can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines and interleukin-1 beta, both are chemicals that can contribute to chronic inflammation.
Cocoa suppresses P-Selectin
Another recent study found that compounds from cocoa may be able to inhibit the activity of the COX enzymes, which also suppresses the expression of an inflammation maker called P-selectin. P-Selectin plays an essential role in the initial recruitment of white blood cells to the site of injury during inflammation. Again, if there is an overabundance of white blood cells for an extended time, this condition can contribute to other health problems.
Dark Cocoa inhibits Leukotrienes & COX Enzymes
In a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers discovered that epicatechin and other flavanols found in cocoa proved to be effective at inhibiting the action of Leukotrienes, inflammatory messengers that are known to be a key contributor to inflammation related conditions when produced in excess. The researchers also found that the availability of nitric oxide was enhanced by consumption of flavanols. Flavonoids are inhibitors of cyclooxygenase (COX-1) which contributes to inflammation. Most commercial chocolate candy does not contain much if any flavanols. They are damaged by heat processing.
Cocoa Lowers C-Reactive Protein
An impressive study from Italian researchers published in the Journal of Nutrition found that those consuming dark chocolate experience a significant drop-off in their levels of C-reactive protein, a key indicator for inflammation in the body. A 2009 study at John Hopkins University found that consumption of dark chocolate significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels in women volunteers.
As we always say here, choose your chocolate well. Let it be at least 70% dark cocoa, cold processed and not alkalized for the best benefits.