Q: Why are we now suddenly interested in cocoa when it has been around for such a long time?
A: Over the centuries, chocolate has come full circle. Most of the modern world currently views chocolate as a tasty but quite unhealthy indulgence meant for only occasional consumption. But health-conscious consumers are now learning that dark chocolate, devoid of some of the unhealthful ingredients usually paired with it in confectionary products, possesses some impressive health properties.
In fact, chocolate has grabbed the interest of the scientific and health communities—so much so that in February 2000, it held center stage at the Annual Meeting and Science Innovation Exposition at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and later in 2004, 2006, and 2007 at the National Academies in Washington, D.C. These meetings featured international scientists from the public and private sectors, bringing together committees of experts in all areas of science and technology.
Q: What conditions may potentially respond to the nutrients in chocolate?
A: Numerous studies support a variety of potential health benefits from cocoa beans and dark chocolate in particular, including protection of the cardiovascular system, cellular function, mood and brain function, relief of inflammatory conditions, and improved blood sugar control.
Q: What are the key nutrients in cocoa/chocolate?
A: Cocoa’s health-promoting potential can be traced back to its optimized nutritional profile. It may surprise you to learn that chocolate is rich in a variety of nutrients that give it its energy-boosting, disease-preventing properties, even rivaling the nutritional power of many commonplace fruits and vegetables. It’s key ingredients include various vitamins and minerals, and perhaps its most important ingredients are its polyphenols—including catechins, flavanols and flavonoids. These compounds are proving to be potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cell-protecting health agents.
Q: Is there any scientific research to back these claims?
A: Absolutely. Chocolate’s health potential is backed by centuries of use around the world, but more than that, its benefits have also been the subject of several years of research. Scientific interest in cocoa has grown in recent years and continues to grow, and more than 2,000 published studies found in reputable medical journals support its health benefits. In fact, the published findings on cacao and chocolate make it one of today’s most researched superfoods.
Q: Scientists have identified antioxidant activity in chocolate. What does this mean and how do we determine the antioxidant potency of cocoa and other antioxidant foods?
A: Among cocoa’s most impressive phytonutrients are several types of polyphenols, largely recognized as some powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds known. Polyphenols can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables ranging from onions to apples, green tea, red wine and cocoa. They comprise multiple categories, including phenolic acids, simple phenols, phenylpropanoids, quinines, stilbenes, xanthones, and the largest group—flavonoids (also called bioflavonoids). Flavonoids make up a majority of the polyphenol family and are further broken down in classes and subclasses such as catechins, epicatechins, proanthocyanidins and procyanidins.
Hundreds of studies have found that flavonoids possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, anticancer, and antiviral properties, as well as the ability to act like hormones (without the damaging side effects), protect and repair the liver, relax and dilate the blood vessels, modify blood sugar levels, maintain mental function, protect the brain, preserve cellular integrity, prevent tooth cavities and other forms of oral disease, and relieve allergy symptoms, among other benefits.
Dr. Kennedy is a licensed Medical Doctor who is board certified in Family Practice and Bariatric medicine (Weight loss). He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice and a Diplomate of the American Board of Bariatric Medicine.
In addition, Dr. Kennedy has more than 30 years of experience in private practice, urgent care, occupational medicine, wellness programs, weight management programs, preventive medicine, complementary and alternative medicine, medical motivation, and patient education.
Thousands of people have been trained and educated by Dr. Kennedy via television, lectures, and his own practice in the areas of eating disorders, power to influence, weight loss, stress management, and smoke cessation. Most importantly, he understands weight management, because he has lost excess weight and kept it off.