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Chocolate as Medicine
Which would you rather take to help prevent heart attacks and strokes? Chocolate or aspirin?
Amazingly, researchers in California have found that taking a flavonol rich cacao drink, equates almost exactly to taking a low dose aspirin, when it comes to blood thinning properties. It seems that the cacao drink acts in a similar way to low dose aspirin in ensuring your blood flows freely -- and the platelets do not stick together, thus reducing the risk of stroke or heart disease.
But as usual with these studies, the boffins urge caution, they stress they are not advocating a couple of candy bars in place of your daily physician prescribed aspirin. There are a substantial number of people who cannot tolerate aspirin, and possibly for those people, eating flavonol rich cacao may be useful to them. You may also be interested to know that there are bioactive compounds in chocolate that promote well being, lessen the pain response and increase alertness. But as a chocolate lover, you probably already knew that.
Chocolate does more than that. An unexpected side effect is that chocolate acts rather like a cannabinoid on the brain. These are substances which mimic marijuana. The chemical in marijuana that makes people "high" -- tetrahydrocannabinol -- joins to specific receptors in the brain. One of the chemical constituents in chocolate can bind to the same receptors, thus producing a similar ‘high’.
Who isn’t familiar with the popular press, doctors, and health organisations, encouraging us, even urging us, to eat more fruit and vegetables. One of the main reasons for this is their high content of antioxidant chemicals. These ‘mop up’ marauding bunches of free radicals intent on etching more evidence of your age on your face and body, than you would like. So loading up on the good guys (antioxidants) will help in the battle.
But did you know that milk chocolate, dark chocolate and even cocoa powder has higher free radical absorption capabilities than many foods, such as blueberries? Another plus for us chocolate addicts; scientists have discovered that the flavonoids in chocolate are substantially more powerful than vitamins, such as ascorbic acid, in protecting lipids which are circulating in your blood from oxidization. Another huge plus for eating chocolate. And here is the clincher -- Harvard School of Public Health discovered that those of us who eat chocolate up to three times each month, live almost a year more than those who steer clear of chocolate altogether.
The raw cacao bean has an exceptionally high level of flavonol, but processing destroys some of the value. Cocoa processors and chocolate manufacturers are beginning to take action to minimise the loss. Mars developed a proprietary method for processing cacao beans which they call “Cocoapro”. This method preserves the valuable active chemicals by changing the way the beans are selected, fermented and dried, as well as how they are processed. Some Mars candy bars feature the CocoaPro label. Look out for them, this is the way consumers can identify chocolate which retains much of the beans benefits.
So for those of us who have been self-medicating ourselves with our chosen chocolate treats over the years were right -- we were simply way ahead of our time.
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