Gut Bacteria + Chocolate = Healthy
March 24, 2014

Gut Bacteria + Chocolate = Healthy

A great big ‘thank you’ should go out to our gut bacteria as a new study has found that gut bacteria just made chocolate good for us. Well, at least the gut bacteria made dark chocolate good for us. According to one redOrbit article written by writer April Flowers, “certain bacteria in the stomach eat the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.”

To come to these conclusions, Dr. John Finley, lead researcher, and his team decided to study the effects of dark chocolate on a variety of gut bacteria in the stomach. As Flowers explains in her article:

“Three cocoa powders were tested by the team using a model digestive tract. This model was composed of a series of modified test tubes to simulate normal digestion. They then subjected the non-digestible materials to anaerobic fermentation using human fecal bacteria

Containing several polyphenolic, or antioxidant, compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, cocoa powder also has a small amount of dietary fiber. In the stomach, both compounds are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over.”

The results showed that combining cocoa’s fiber with prebiotics will likely lead to improved overall health. Additionally, the study found that the gut bacteria converted the dark chocolate into anti-inflammatory compounds, which absorbed into the cardiovascular system providing innumerable benefits.

Dark chocolate has long been lauded for its heart health benefits, but this study shows that it provides gut health benefits as well as anti-inflammatory ones. Sure, it is not as sweet as milk or white chocolate, but it also has less fat, more antioxidants, and more health benefits than other sweet treats. Dark chocolate is definitely worth looking into more.

Of course, the key to incorporating dark chocolate into one’s diet for the health benefits is not to overdo it. We should only eat a couple of squares a week of the confection because it still has some fat and some sugar. Plus, it simply is not good to eat too much dark chocolate every day. It really is not good to eat too much of anything every day. It is like red wine; red wine has some important health benefits for the heart, but only when we drink it in moderation, say one or two glasses per a week. More than that, and the dangers of alcohol overwhelm the benefits of the red wine. Dark chocolate follows a similar protocol. It definitely provides health benefits, but only when included in moderation in a healthy diet.

Now, I must confess that I have only recently started eating chocolate and enjoying it. And really it is only dark chocolate that I genuinely like. Milk and white chocolate are just too sweet. So, I am happy to read about some of the benefits of my newly added sweet. I may not be a chocoholic, but I do like dark chocolate.

The more studies that allow chocolate lovers to see the benefits of their favorite sweet treat, the better. In conjunction with all we know about dark chocolate and its health benefits, this newest study provides even more support for at least this one little habit. And any study that allows a chocolate lover to feel less guilty about the tasty confection is a study we should all learn a little more about.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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