(NaturalNews) Researchers from the University of Toronto recently conducted a study in which they observed measurable health benefits in people who eat chocolate. The study involved roughly 50,000 participants and it revealed that those who eat a serving of chocolate a week are 22 percent less likely to suffer a stroke.
Sarah Sahib, author of the study, and her colleague Dr. Gustavo Saposnik also conducted a second study in which they found that those who ate 50 grams of chocolate per week were 46 percent less likely to die after having a stroke than those who ate no chocolate at all. All findings are set to be presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Toronto.
Experts believe that the key components in chocolate that give it protective health benefits are its antioxidant flavanoids. Flavanoid-rich foods are known to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in part due to their anti-clotting characteristics that prevent blood platelets from clumping together and stopping healthy blood flow.
Flavanols also contribute to increased nitric oxide activity which, according to Dr. Norman Hollenberg, physician and professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical school, plays a vital role in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
The antioxidant power of chocolate is also significant; it typically has a higher Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) value than most common foods, including prunes and blueberries. Antioxidants protect the body from the destructive effects of free radicals by preventing harmful oxidation in the body.
According to the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, dark chocolate has an average ORAC value of more than 13,000 while milk chocolate has about 6,700. In other words, a 40-gram piece of milk chocolate has about 400 milligrams of antioxidants, or roughly the equivalent of the amount in a glass of red wine.
In addition to increasing energy levels and alertness, chocolate also contains other compounds like tryptophan and anandamide that help to decrease stress, reduce pain, and promote relaxation.
Since most commercial chocolate is heavily processed and filled with refined sugar, it is best to eat raw cacao. According to a 2001 study published in Nutrition Notes, the raw cacao bean and its bran have the highest levels of polyphenols and provide the most benefit.
Because awareness about chocolate's health benefits is increasing, many manufacturers of commercial chocolate are beginning to respond by altering their processing methods in order to preserve as many flavanols as possible.