Recently, our founder Catrin had the pleasure of being interviewed by top nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche BSc(Hons) Dip(ION) FdSc BANT on the Let’s Do Lunch podcast on River Radio. Jenny and Catrin discussed the backstory of Aurosó chocolate, the origins of chocolate, important topics surrounding the health benefits of eating Dark Chocolate and what to watch out for when selecting your next chocolate treat. Thank you so much to Jenny for inviting us to discuss chocolate in so much detail, we thoroughly enjoyed it! Jenny has very kindly written this most informative blog for our Newsletters on The heart and brain benefits of eating dark chocolate, see below:
As a nation, one of our most often consumed ‘treats’ is chocolate. However, most of the chocolate consumed is milk or white chocolate, which is made with lots of refined sugar, added emulsifiers and even vegetable fats. Dark chocolate, however, provides a variety of phytonutrients including high amounts of flavonoids, sulphur, magnesium and phenyethylamine. In fact, dark chocolate is one of the best sources of polyphenols and has more antioxidant activity than black tea, red wine and even blueberries. Eating dark chocolate brings some powerful and protective health benefits too.
Flavonols, which are the main type of flavonoid found in chocolate, have been shown to have a positive effect on heart health by reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow to both the heart and the brain. Flavonols are shown to prevent blood platelets from clotting which could reduce the risk of stroke. A study published in the International Journal of cardiology had subjects consume either a daily dose of flavonoid rich dark chocolate or non-flavonoid white chocolate for two weeks. The results showed the flavonoid rich dark chocolate intake significantly improved circulation whereas the white chocolate had no positive impact on health. Furthermore, a 2015 study showed that consuming 25g of dark chocolate was effective in lowering blood pressure in those with Type II diabetes and hypertension.
Studies have that shown consuming dark chocolate increases cerebral blood flow, promotes synaptogenesis (the formation of synapses between our neurons) and accumulates in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory. A 2008 study showed a significant increase in cerebral blood flow after regular cocoa flavonol consumption in healthy elderly humans. As cerebral ischaemia (inadequate blood supply) is accompanied by cognitive decline, it is believed that flavonol rich dark chocolate could provide a promising approach to the treatment, and certainly prevention, of this condition. (Cerebral blood flow response to flavanol-rich cocoa in healthy elderly humans (nih.gov)).
A review of multiple studies found chocolate has a positive effect in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety while increasing a sense of calm. The mood-enhancing benefits of chocolate are attributed to it being both a source of anandamide (Brain activity of anandamide: a rewarding bliss, Acta Pharmacologica Sinica (nature.com)), a neurotransmitter that binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain inducing a sense of happiness and well-being, and phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator implicated in mood regulation.
Dark chocolate has much to offer when it comes to both brain and heart health. Regular consumption of good-quality dark chocolate is something that should be a part of a healthy diet, especially as we age and look for both cardioprotective and neuroprotective interventions through diet.