Reduced blood pressure. Lower body weight. Improved cardiovascular health.
Dark chocolate has long been touted for its health benefits, but until now scientists had yet to unlock the rich, delicious mystery of what exactly is causing them. New findings unveiled at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society revealed the source of chocolate’s power: Microbes in our guts ferment cocoa into anti-inflammatory compounds that support heart health.
Essentially you’re not the only one who enjoys tearing into a bar of dark chocolate – helpful bacteria in your stomach, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, are also glad you indulged. Fuelled by the compounds in cocoa, such as catechin, epicatchin, and small amounts of fibre, the bacteria metabolise these ingredients into smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed by the body in order to lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue and reduce the long-term risk of stroke.
John Finley, Ph.D., and researchers with the Louisiana State University, US, became heroes to dark chocolate lovers everywhere when they released the study, which was the first to look at the effects of dark chocolate on different types of stomach bacteria. Their complete findings will appear in an upcoming paper on the study, “Impact of the microbiome on cocoa polyphenolic compounds.”
As for how runners can put these findings to use immediately, it’s important to stick to unsweeted raw cocoa powder (mixed in with a smoothie or oats) or dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage in order to get the most health benefits. Enjoy!