Chocolate and sex are popular themes this week, with interest in the former overtaking the latter as we age, and perhaps for good reason.
The essence of chocolate, cocoa, contains more than 300 compounds that help slow aging, control high blood pressure, burn fat, control blood sugar and protect the bones and heart, all the while helping us to feel euphoric and amorous.
Cocoa, just like dark berries, green tea and red wine, is rich in flavonoids, potent antioxidants capable of blocking inflammation and disease. Chocolate is also rich in resveratrol an age-slowing, anti-inflammatory, bone-saving compound also found in red wine.
A 2009 study in the journal Circulation reported cocoa can prevent high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. Study authors point out the Kuna Indians living off the coast of Panama consume enormous amounts of cocoa, much of it salted, yet this population enjoys low blood pressure and suffer no decline in heart or kidney function with age.
Cocoa, which comes from cacao trees, is rich in phenethylamine (PEA) a compound released in the brain when we fall in love (or perhaps lust). Cocoa also stimulates serotonin, the neurotransmitter targeted by Ely Lilly’s Prozac, only without suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Cocoa gives us a mind-body energy boost, with a touch of caffeine together with theobromine, an energizing, euphoria-producing alkaloid. Anandamide, a messenger molecule in cocoa, further uplifts us while keeping us calm. Ananda, the root of this word comes translates from Sanskrit as “bliss.”
And what could be more blissful than eating chocolate to lose weight? Studies show cocoa’s flavanols reduce insulin resistance thereby helping us to shed excess fat while controlling type 2 diabetes (as long as you don’t choose high sugar chocolates).
Dark chocolate chased with a glass of red wine delivers a synergistic health bonus. Careful; The benefits stop after a glass-and-a half or so of wine or if your chocolate is laced with refined sugar, especially corn syrup. Milk chocolate tends to have the highest sugar content, plus milk binds the tannins, blunting many of chocolate’s miracles.
Once it was only the sugar we needed to worry about in chocolate, but thanks to biotech companies, you can add GMO’s to chocolate’s potential dark side. The higher level and different configuration of PEA in GMO chocolate is linked with increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Have a chocolaty Valentine’s Day!