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How Aphrodisiacs can Help Fight Disease

There has been a lot of recent interest among food researchers investigating the health benefits of resveratrol, an antioxidant found naturally in red wine, dark chocolate, peanuts and some berries.

As we’ve talked about previously in this space, good gut health is one of the variables that allows resveratrol-rich foods like dark chocolate and red wine to offer some pretty nifty advantages, like sharpening your brain.

Consuming resveratrol-rich foods may also be responsible for these perks by making changes to your gut health, according to a pair of reports related to protecting your cardiovascular system from disease.

Resveratrol vs. diabetes

A fascination about the benefits of resveratrol piqued the curiosity of Dr. Jason Dyck, who has spent years studying this antioxidant at the University of Alberta.

Previous studies found resveratrol benefited the health of diabetic patients by lowering their blood sugar levels, but scientists didn’t understand how because resveratrol levels circulating throughout the human bloodstream are so low.

That is, until Dyck and his research team examined how resveratrol affected the gut microbiomes of mice in a study appearing in the medical journal, Diabetes.

In step one, feeding obese mice resveratrol for six weeks was enough to change the makeup of their tiny microbiomes and improve their tolerance to glucose.

The positive results from stage two of their study – giving new healthy mice fecal transplants from that previous group of diabetic mice – were far more dramatic, rapid and impressive than feeding them resveratrol alone.

“We performed fecal transplants in pre-diabetic obese mice and within two weeks their blood sugar levels were almost back to normal,” says Dr. Dyck, according to a press release.

After some deliberation, scientists concluded this gut health change may be the result of one or a group of metabolites that could be triggering healthy changes in blood sugar levels.

“It’s going to take a herculean effort to find what that molecule is,” says Dr. Dyck. “Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s a combination of four or five, or maybe even a hundred. We don’t know, but we intend to find out.”

Resveratrol vs. heart disease

Resveratrol may also play an important role in reducing the production of TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), an organic gut byproduct that promotes heart disease by triggering the accumulation of plaque in the arteries by gut flora, according to a report appearing in mBio.

A group of Chinese researchers fed mice bred to have an elevated risk of developing atherosclerosis food with or without resveratrol for 30 days. Then, the mice were fed TMA (trimethylamine) or choline to trigger any unhealthy reactions.

Resveratrol had a very similar calming effect, not only on TMAO levels, but the production of TMA in the gut that generates TMAO. Additionally, feeding mice resveratrol also increased levels of various bacterial species, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Too much of a good thing

Before you start stocking up on resveratrol-rich foods, it’s important to remember too much of a good thing can cause health problems too.

For example, increasing your resveratrol intake by eating dark chocolate is OK, so long as you don’t overdo it. Be sure you’re eating minimally processed dark chocolate that contains high percentages of cocoa.

Consuming wine, along with beer and baked goods, can also be a problem for your gut, as these foods contain sulfites that can inhibit the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut if you’re not careful.

Feeding your gut by taking a probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria may shield your heart health from cardiovascular diseases, like diabetes and chronic inflammation too.

Good gut health allows chocolate to sharpen your brain

Earlier this year, you learned how eating polyphenol-rich dark chocolate can benefit your health and why your gut plays an important role in that process.

In fact, the presence of Bifidobacteria, one of 10 beneficial strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids), and lactic acid bacteria is the primary reason eating dark chocolate produces healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds.

These same beneficial microbes also create the opportunity for healthy older folks to reverse age-related declines in memory, according to a recent study published by Nature Neuroscience.

An important thing to note: The declines in memory due to age that are being discussed here are far different than those experienced by folks who suffer more serious health challenges due to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia that destroys neurons throughout the brain.

On the other hand, age-related declines in memory—forgetting a phone number or where you parked a car—usually start in early adulthood, becoming more noticeable as people approach their 50s or 60s.

Scientists at Columbia University Medical Center studied the effects of consuming dietary cocoa flavanols to confirm that age-related declines in memory were located in the portion of the brain known as the dentate gyrus (inside the hippocampus).

For the study, 37 healthy participants ranging in age from 50-69 received either a low flavanol drink (10 mg.) or a high flavanol drink (900 mg.) daily for three months. Before and after the study, patients were given memory tests, and their brains were scanned to measure the amount of blood in and the type of memories controlled by the dentate gyrus.

Patients who were given the high flavanol drink experienced terrific results compared to those receiving the low flavanol mixture.

“If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months, that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old,” said Dr. Scott Small, according to a press release.

Interestingly, the high flavanol product used in this study, produced by global confectionary manufacturer Mars, isn’t the same as chocolate, which is why researchers caution people not to increase their chocolate intake to replicate the effect.

In fact, attempting to eat that much chocolate rich in epicatechin (a healthy flavanol also found in tea and grapes), you’d have to eat at least 300 grams of dark chocolate a day, amounting to seven average bars.

Also, scientists reported no additional activity in the entorhinal cortex, another region in the hippocampus that’s affected early in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

For this high flavanol drink to work so well in these experiments, it has to be “processed” by intestinal bacteria so that the active agents are absorbed and work to improve the brain’s ability to retain memories.

The real story “behind” the study: To enjoy these chocolatey benefits, ensure that you have a healthy gut by taking a quality multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced.

Dark chocolate’s healthy benefits start in the gut

Thanks to its polyphenol powers, dark chocolate has gained a healthy reputation as modern science has discovered the delicious ways it beats life-threatening diseases.

Consuming the chemical components of dark chocolate has been linked to suppressing the growth of colon cancer cells and to improving glucose tolerance that may prevent type 2 diabetes.

In fact, the chocolaty path to better health may start in the gut, according to a recent Louisiana State University (LSU) study.

Determining how chocolate mixes with gut bacteria to produce measureable health benefits was a “rather disgusting process,” according to LSU food sciences professor John Finley (as told to Scientific American).

First, three kinds of cocoa powder were doused with enzymes to recreate the upper digestive tract in humans, then traveled to a gut filled with feces harvested from nine grad students (you were warned).

The gut microbes inside the, um, poop, then consumed the remainder of the cocoa. What was left at the end: Fermented fiber and non-digestible compounds, including catechin and epicatechin (also found in green tea, skins and seeds of some fruits). These were broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules that display the beneficial anti-inflammatory activity, which other studies have previously revealed.

The minuses about eating chocolate

If the positive benefits from these studies has piqued your curiosity about eating chocolate a bit more regularly, there are caveats to consider.

A growing number of studies have demonstrated these health advantages come from eating dark chocolate, not processed chocolate candy bars containing milk and sugar. The real plus, health experts say, comes from eating chocolate containing the highest percentages of cocoa.

“The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate. When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory,” says co-study author and LSU student Maria Moore.

Additionally, researchers found patients could achieve even greater benefits by eating dark chocolate with fruits, like acai and pomegranates.

The Bifidobacterium connection

To derive benefits from dark chocolate, however, be sure you’re eating minimally processed chocolate containing higher percentages of cocoa. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more bitter the dark chocolate will taste.

Also, even though dark chocolate may be good for your health, you can’t eat it all the time. Any extra ingredients can add lots of extra fat and calories your body doesn’t need and limit any health benefits.

However, your gut must be healthy to take advantage of these dark chocolate benefits. Bifidobacterium, one of the beneficial strains of bacteria identified by LSU researchers, is one of the active strains contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior.

In addition to the multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, both EndoMune probiotics contain no dairy products, preservatives and artificial colorings and are GMO- and gluten-free.

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