The young woman mirrors my own enthusiasm and facial expression when I open a Lindt Excellence 90% Cocoa Supreme Dark candy bar.
In a new meta-analysis of recent studies, Luc Djousse, MD, DSc and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found that consumption of dark chocolate significantly lowered LDL (Lousy) cholesterol.
Overall, eating dark chocolate resulted in average lowered rates of 6.23mg/dL in total cholesterol and 4.9 mg/dl in LDL. The cocoa had no effect on HDL (Healthy) cholesterol or on triglycerides. Consuming dark chocolate produced more beneficial results than did drinking hot cocoa.
Despite the saturated fat and calories in chocolate, researchers believe it’s the flavanols (antioxidants) in dark chocolate that inhibit cholesterol absorption as well as the body’s receptors for LDL cholesterol.
Also, it’s possible that the saturated fat in chocolate is different from the fats that boost LDLs. Stearic acid makes up 33% of the total fat in cocoa butter and more than 50% of the saturated fat. Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, director of Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidants Research Laboratory, observes, “Some lipid experts (and chocolate manufacturers) note that stearic acid is a ‘neutral’ saturated fat as it does not appear to increase LDL.”
He further commented that the new meta-analysis “ . . . “confirms earlier reports that dark chocolate/cocoa does not induce untoward lipid profiles and can even lower slightly LDL and total cholesterol as determined in randomized clinical trials.
“But note well that all these trials were essentially short-term in duration and some used quite high doses.”
OK, so how much dark chocolate can we consume without guilt? Blumberg says, “The findings suggest that this indulgent treat can reasonably be included in a heart-healthy diet—in small amounts that do not increase body weight.”
Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, August 12, 2013 Studies published in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition