Do you like dark chocolate?
You can eat it without experiencing guilt because scientists have discovered that it is very useful.
Previous studies have found that daily consumption of dark chocolate lowers blood pressure and is good for the heart. Now scientists have discovered why this happens – and it all comes down to how our guts ferment fiber in cocoa beans.
Researcher Maria Moore, of Louisiana State University, said: “We have found that there are two types of microbes in the gut: good and bad. Good microbes by Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria feast on chocolate. When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory. “This formation of a natural anti-inflammatory properties enters the blood stream and helps to protect the heart and arteries from damage.
Bad bacteria in the gut, such as Clostridia and some strains of Escherichia coli (E.coli) triggered inflammation, leading to bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
The team tested three types of cocoa powder – raw material that is used for the manufacture of chocolate – in artificial intestinal tract, comprising a series of modified tubes.
Cocoa contains a so-called antioxidant polyphenolic compounds, such as catechin and epicatechin, and a small amount of dietary fiber. Both components are digested and absorbed poorly, but are easily handled by the good bacteria in the colon.
Dark chocolate contains higher content of cocoa, which increases the process.
“In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and major polyphenolic polymers are metabolized into smaller molecules, which are absorbed more easily,” said Dr. John Finley, who led the team from Louisiana. “These small polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they reduce inflammation in the vascular system, which reduces the risk of stroke in the long term.”
Combining cocoa with probiotics – non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of bacteria – is likely to strengthen the process that gives beneficial results, said Dr. Finley.
“When swallowing probiotics population of beneficial intestinal microbes increases and destroys unwanted microbes in the gut, such as those that cause stomach problems,” he added.
Probiotics are found in foods such as raw garlic, raw wheat bran and boiled whole wheat flour, and are particularly rich in raw chicory root. They may also be administered via food additives.
Combining dark chocolate with fruits like pomegranate can also increase these benefits, said Dr. Finley.