It is commonly heard that chocolate is unhealthy for you and can cause heart issues and weight gain because of the sugars and saturated fat. What is not commonly heard is that dark chocolate is healthy because it has fewer sugars and saturated fats than milk chocolate. Cocoa beans contain antioxidants called flavanols which can reduce cell damage which can cause cancer and decrease heart disease and high blood pressure. Flavanols are found 2-3 times more in dark chocolate than milk chocolate and can even increase insulin production which can lead to a reduced risk of diabetes.
The University of Illinois research team suggests that phenolic compounds found in cocoa beans have a positive and powerful effect on the fat and immune system of mice and potentially reverse inflammation and insulin resistance that is associated with obesity.
Cocoa bean shells contain high levels of three beneficial bioactive chemicals that are also found in coffee and tea. A water-based extract was created and contained the three bioactive chemicals and tested their effects on adipocytes and macrophages as well as studied the individual effects on the cells. They found that the damaged mitochondria in the cells were repaired and less fat accumulated when they treated the adipocytes with the bioactive chemicals. When adipocytes accumulate too much fat, the growth of macrophages is promoted in which the two interact negatively and cause inflammation in tissues which in turn lead to insulin resistance. During their study, the noted that the treated adipocytes the cells underwent browning and became a form of fat tissue that contains "greater mitochondria and enhanced fat-burning efficiency".
This topic really interests me because obesity is a growing problem and is the second leading cause of death in the United States. I didn't know that obesity-related problems were related back to the adipocyte and macrophages interaction and I definitely did not know that cocoa bean shells contained phenols that could reverse the tissue inflammation and insulin resistance that is seen with obesity. I don't believe that this study is a "go ahead" for eating more chocolate, but I think it sheds light on the beneficial properties of cocoa beans and lets chocolate have a chance to redeem itself from having a bad reputation.
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