Cocoa, which comes from the cocoa bean, has been shown to have protective health benefits when ingested in moderate amounts. Some potential benefits of cocoa have been shown in cardiovascular health and improvements in eye and brain function.
Cocoa for Fighting Oxidative Stress
High intensity exercise, among other things, can lead to greater cell damage due to oxidative stress. High levels of oxidative stress tax our immune system and lead to a reduction in the antioxidants that help regulate oxidative stress. Certain nutrients, like items right in polyphenols and flavanols, have been shown to help inhibit or reduce the amount and the damage that can be associated with oxidative stress.The study by Davison et al, used 100g of dark chocolate which has been shown to have the highest flavanol capacity. The results showed that the consumption of dark chocolate, pre-exercise, increased antioxidant status, and increased plasma insulin concentrations both pre- and post-exercise. The research also showed that there was better glucose maintenance pre-exercise, and decreased more significantly post-exercise than the control group.
This study shows that dark chocolate that is full of flavanols can have beneficial effects by enhancing the antioxidant status pre-exercise, which may help reduce the oxidative stress post-exercise due to high intensity exercise.
Cocoa and Weight Loss
Recent research shows that minimally processed cocoa has higher levels of flavonols and polyphenols, which has been shown to reduce enzyme activity in the stomach. The particular enzymes, pancreatic lipase, secreted phospolipase A2, and pancreatic-amylase, are responsible for breakdown of both fat and carbohydrates in the body.
Cocoa that has high concentrations of polyphenols and flavanols has been shown to provide inhibitory effects on the enzymes, blocking fat and carbohydrate breakdown in the body. With this inhibitory action and the combination of the right diet, cocoa might possibly aid in weight management.
Cocoa, in combination with the right diet and exercise program, can have potential health benefits when used in moderation. Ingesting high levels of the flavanols found in cocoa may help our bodies in numerous ways by providing these protective nutrients.