Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fun and Serious Chocolate Facts

I attended a science and food event at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) . The focus was chocolate, one of the most wonderful creations of the Universe. I went to the Museum of Natural History in May 2005 for their chocolate history exhibit. The cocoa bean, a wonderful large, yellowish bean, was first cultivated in Guatemala. I am eternally grateful to my best friend’s ancestors. It was used there and in Central America to make a beverage for the rich and as money! The Dutch used chocolate. Eventually someone made milk chocolate, and the fist American chocolate factory opened in 1904. I am sure you can look up this history easily.

Now I will review and reference some chocolate nutrition facts from the meeting. By the way, the views of Manhattan from that 40th floor of the NYAS building were spectacular, as were the appetizers and chocolate samples, all for $10.00! And we received bags of choc late treats to go!

Dark, bitter chocolate is the healthiest. White chocolate is made up of cocoa butter, sugar and milk, and does not have chocolate solids besides cocoa butter. Its nutritional benefits are basically nilch. More adults than children like bitter chocolate because children’s appreciation of this taste is not as cultivated as it is in adults, in general.

The neurochemicals in coffee that make you feel good are 2-phenylethylamine, tryptamine and tyramine. The two last ones increase dopamine levels.

Chocolate has been found to have anti-oxidant qualities. When the ratio of chocolate to milk and sugar is high, the anti-oxidant qualities are greater than those found in blueberries, the fruit with the reported highest known antioxidant qualities.(There is a chance there is some rarely used or new fruit out there that has even higher antioxidant qualities. The antioxidants in coffee are flavanols, flavonols and flavones.

Here are some brief summaries of some journal article findings. Look them up by name, date or journal title and subject “chocolate” and more on You will get the abstracts. I will not find the titles or double-check the authors tonight.

• Wan et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Chocolate increases antioxidant activity in the blood.
• Wiswedel et al. FRBM 2004 Chocolate increases antioxidant activity in the blood, and this is increased further when people are exercising.
• Grasse et al. Hypertension 2005 Dark chocolate consumption correlated with decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
• Hollenberg et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 2006 Kuna Amerinds Indians in their Carribbean island drink about five cups of a dark cocoa drink and have longevity. When they move to the United States and stop drinking this, their life expectancy decreases.
• Blysse et al. Arch Internal Med 2006 Dark chocolate consumption correlated with decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure.
• Engler and Engler Nutr Rev 2006 Flavanols promote the bioavailability of nitric oxide, which decreases thrombosis and dilates blood vessels.
• Francis et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 2006 Cocoa flavanols increased cerebral blood flow in young adults.
• Fisher et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol 2006 Cocoa flavanols increased cerebral blood flow in older adults.
• Hermann et al. Heart 2006 Dark chocolate reduces platelet adhesion in smokers.

Have your dark chocolate with some coffee or red wine, and smile.

Disclaimer: None of the above information can be taken as a substitute for advice from a medical professional such as a physician.

My third book, Pocket Guide to Fitness, is available on,, and If you look up my name on those Web sites, you will find my other books The Boy in a Wheelchair and Life, Work and Play: Poems and Short Stories.

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