Candy Wars, Chocolaty Science...

Not to brag, but DiseaseProof is earning some chops. For example, I receive press releases ALL the time now. Like this email from Hershey's about new research involving dark chocolate and vascular health. Take a look:

I wanted to share some news that The Hershey Company just released today that I thought might be of interest to you and your readers. As you might know, dark chocolate has come to be recognized for its flavanol antioxidant benefits, but a new study, conducted by the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, has uncovered an important link to its vascular health benefits as well. The study, which used Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate, reported that dark chocolate has a positive impact on blood pressure and blood vessel function. The study's release comes on the heels of Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate, a rich dark chocolate featuring 60 percent cacao, earning renowned health and fitness expert Bob Greene's Best Life seal of approval – the first and only chocolate bar to earn that distinction.

The research appears in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Treatment and here’s Hershey’s official press release.

Now, originally I balked at this—don’t think promoting chocolate bars for health is a good idea—but then I saw this report. Research by Mars Inc. has determined that flavanols in cocoa may boost blood flow to the brain. Via Kelley Colihan of WebMD:

The ingredient is flavanols, which are nutrients found in cocoa. Flavanols are considered to act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories on cells. These chemicals can protect cells and tissue from damage, which in turn protects against heart disease and cancer.

The research and similar studies were funded by Mars Inc., the maker of Snickers and other foods….

….After one week, blood flow measures increased 8% in the group that got the flavanol-rich drinks. After two weeks that went up to a 10% increase.

When comparing participants drinking the high-flavanol cocoa to those who drank the low-flavanol cocoa, there was an increase in measured blood flow.

The researchers write that flavanols could have a "promising role" to treat brain conditions such as stroke and dementia.

Check out the study in Neuropychiatric Disease and Treatment. I think its interesting that two CANDY companies are talking about HEALTH, I wonder if they trying to convince us that sweets are ACTUALLY good for us—very funny, nice try!

Okay, as for flavanols. You don’t have to eat sugary M&Ms or KitKat bars to get them. Cocoa powder will do just fine and you can use it to make healthy recipes that include other super foods like spinach, walnuts and strawberries. See Banana Split Smoothie or Gerry’s Chocolate Pudding.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Brandi Magill - August 25, 2008 9:05 AM

Congrats on your accomplishments with you blog! I love my raw cocoa powder, it is the perfect pick me up!

Steve - August 25, 2008 9:07 AM

For years, Andrew Weil MD has recommended chocolate, but he suggests minimum 70% cocoa, and the Hersheys "Extra Dark" is only 60%. This is still fairly sweet chocolate.

Katie - August 25, 2008 12:54 PM

Cacao nibs are great stuff. Just the chocolate, completely unprocessed. Super bitter, and very complex. 85% dark chocolate will do in a pinch.

Sara - August 25, 2008 11:15 PM

The cocoa is great. It's the sugar and fat in those candy bars that are so bad. So a little cocoa powder in a smoothie with fruit and greens- that's the way to go.

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