Chocolate Buzz and Relevance to Cancer Prevention

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

chocolate_heart_sxcWhat is the reality of chocolate? How to maximize your benefit for cancer prevention and your experience of pleasurable eating as well? This blog post helps.

Many people fall in love with chocolate, I’m one of them. It’s a tasty food or a delicious treat all year long, regardless of the buzz in February. Now, let’s take a look at what’s in it and how it serves us.

The Anatomy of Chocolate

There are two categories of chocolate: milk and dark.

A basic component of dark chocolate is cocoa bean, the seed of cacao tree (called Theobroma cacao). Cocoa bean is a rich, natural source of some specific antioxidants such as polyphenols or procyanidins, flavanoids, resveratrol, and catechins; just like those nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and tea. Interestingly, cocoa bean contains little caffeine.

After all, chocolate is a calorie-rich food with sugar and fat as well as other additives, which may explain limitations of milk chocolate. Milk chocolate might contain enough phenylethyamine and/or theobromine to stimulate mood or sexual sensation, but with less cocoa, more milk, and probably more sugar, it provides little health benefits.

Essentially, cocoa-derived polyphenols and/or flavonoids are effective antioxidants, promoting good health and preventing many diseases.

So, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the more antioxidants; or simply speaking, the darker the chocolate, the more beneficial for you.

The Hub of Cancer

Cancer is a complex process of multiple chronic diseases. Apparently, some lifestyle-related factors (e.g. tobacco use or smoking, excess alcohol intake, and poor nutrition) play an enhancing role. However, virtually all human cancers involve the initial effects of cancer-causing agents (i.e. carcinogens) that are toxic to the genetic materials such as DNA.

All free radicals, the harmful molecules generated from our normal metabolism or taken from external sources, can modify DNA, and one of the consequences is oxidative damage to DNA. Research points it out clearly that free radicals are involved in both the initiation and progression of cancer, which explains why antioxidants, particularly those naturally occurring, are cancer protective.

The Delightful Benefits of Dark Chocolate

As mentioned above, health benefits of dark chocolate including cancer prevention depend largely on the type and the amount of chocolate you consume. Scientific findings suggest the following strong characters of cocoa-derived antioxidants:

  1. Anti-inflammatory property: it may lower your risks of cancer and chronic diseases.
  2. Anti-growth and anti-proliferation effects on abnormal cells: they may slow down the developmental process of cancerous cells in your body.
  3. Antioxidants defense and chemopreventive effects: they may protect you from adverse effects of free radicals.

Keep it in mind that research evidence for any beneficial effects of cocoa has been gathered predominantly from laboratory experiments or animal models.

A Word of Wisdom

When all’s said and done, in moderation, regular intake of dark chocolate is health beneficial, so is frequent consumption of foods packed with effective antioxidants.

 

Image Credit: by Ambrozjo