Gatekeepers of Your Gut Health

Gut Bacteria Key to Dark Chocolate Benefit

dark chocolate

I love dark chocolate. I’ve loved it more over the years knowing that its good for me. Dark chocolate is, by definition, chocolate comprised of over 60% cocoa and sometimes called “semisweet”. It has been touted as a food rich in the tannins or flavanoids, which are polyphenol antioxidants similar to those in green tea, red wine and bluberries.

The health benefits of dark chocolate have been known to decrease LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase blood flow in arteries. A meta-analysis of studies from 1955-2009 examining benefits cocoa showed dark chocolate both statically and clinically significant in improving blood pressure [1]. The mechanism of these benefits has been thought to be an increase in nitric oxide which promotes expansion or dilation of the blood vessels.

This month, researchers reported that the actual reason dark chocolate benefits your health originiates in your gut. It turns out that the flavanoids or antioxidants in chocolate are not able to be absorbed by the gut well enough to be any benefit. But the good bacteria in your gut ferment these flavanoids along with some dietary fiber which transforms them into smaller molecules that can be absorbed in the colon.

The study’s author, Dr. John Finley, says that dark chocolate can have even more potent health benefits when eaten with fruits like pomegranetes [2]. Watch out, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more fruit-chocolate bar combinations coming down the pike in the near future.

1. Reid K, T Sullivan, P Rakler, OR Frank, NP Stocks. 2010. “Does chocolate reduce blood pressure? A meta-analysis. BMC Med. 8:39.
2. The precise reason for the health benefits of dark chocolate: mystery solved

About the Author

About the Author: David Roberts holds a Masters in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health with more than 20 years of experience working in quantitative research and has done public health work on three continents. He sees poor gut health as a leading public health crisis of our day and proper nutrition as the solution. He currently serves as Chief Public Health Officer for Biomic Sciences. .


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