The precise reason for the health benefits of dark chocolate: Mystery solved in a new study, "Impact of the microbiome on cocoa polyphenolic compounds." Good microbes in your belly eat the chocolate. The health benefits of eating dark chocolate have been extolled for centuries, but the exact reason has remained a mystery –– until now. Researchers reported here today that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart. People could experience even more health benefits when dark chocolate is combined with solid fruits like pomegranates and acai. You also may be interested also in checking out the PDF file, "New Spring 2014 Cornucopia."
The researchers' findings were unveiled on March 18, 2018 at the 247th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific society. The meeting, attended by thousands of scientists, features more than 10,000 reports on new advances in science and other topics. It is being held at the Dallas Convention Center and area hotels through Thursday, March 20, 2014.
"We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the 'good' ones and the 'bad' ones," explained Maria Moore, according to the March 18, 2014 news release, "The precise reason for the health benefits of dark chocolate: Mystery solved." Moore is an undergraduate student and one of the study's researchers.
Compounds produced are anti-inflammatory
"The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate," she said, according to the news release. "When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory." The other bacteria in the gut are associated with inflammation and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. These include some Clostridia and some E. coli.
"When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke," said John Finley, Ph.D., according to the news release. Finley led the work. He said that this study is the first to look at the effects of dark chocolate on the various types of bacteria in the stomach. The researchers are with Louisiana State University.
The team tested three cocoa powders using a model digestive tract, comprised of a series of modified test tubes, to simulate normal digestion. They then subjected the non-digestible materials to anaerobic fermentation using human fecal bacteria, according to Finley.
John Finley, Ph.D. explained that cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several polyphenolic, or antioxidant, compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, and a small amount of dietary fiber
Both components are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over. "In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity," he said, according to the news release.
Finley also noted that combining the fiber in cocoa with prebiotics is likely to improve a person’s overall health and help convert polyphenolics in the stomach into anti-inflammatory compounds. “When you ingest prebiotics, the beneficial gut microbial population increases and outcompetes any undesirable microbes in the gut, like those that cause stomach problems,” he added.
Combining chocolate with fruits
Prebiotics are carbohydrates found in foods like raw garlic and cooked whole wheat flour that humans can’t digest but that good bacteria like to eat. This food for your gut’s helpful inhabitants also comes in dietary supplements.
Finley said that people could experience even more health benefits when dark chocolate is combined with solid fruits like pomegranates and acai. Looking to the future, he said that the next step would be for industry to do just that.
You might try a smoothie of a spoonful of unsweetened cocoa powder and a hand full of fruits such as acai or pomegranates or your favorite fruits or berries: What's the impact of the microbiome on cocoa polyphenolic compounds?
Flavanols such as catechin, epicatechin and polymers are abundant in cocoa products, however their fate in the lower gastrointestinal tract is not clear, according to the abstract of the research. Scientists investigated the impact of the human gut microbiome on three different types of cocoa powders: lavado, Geekins Sienna, and Paragon.
The cocoa powders differed in sources and processing methods. The materials were predigested in a gastrointestinal model and the non-digestible residues were anaerobically fermented in a human gastrointestinal model.
Short chain fatty acids
Short chain fatty acids, changes in pH and phenolic profiles were determined at 0, 6, 12, 18 and 24 hours. Fatty acid production was compared to hi-Maize Resistant Starch (positive control). The pH dropped slightly between 6 and 12 hours and acetic acid, butyric acid, and propionic acid were found, notes the study's abstract. The phenolic profiles suggested breakdown of larger molecules to simpler phenolic acids. Colonic fermentation may be responsible for some of the benefits of coca products.
This study was supported by the Louisiana State College of Agriculture and a Louisiana AgCenter Undergraduate Research Grant. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members,
ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.
Researchers reported here today that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart
Scientists presented their study at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. A press conference on this topic was held today, Tuesday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m. Central time in Room A122/A123 of the Dallas Convention Center. If you're with the media, you can access a live video of the event and ask questions at the ACS Ustream channel.
You probably see in local supermarkets packages of dark chocolates with pomegranate or acai berries in the center. You can make such combinations yourself at home. Simply mix unsweetened cocoa powder or other dark chocolate with your favorite fruit such as berries and eat them together or emulsify the fruit and chocolate in a blender as a smoothie or as a sauce poured over desserts, cereals, or other foods.