Recent research shows that in addition to exerting multiple beneficial effects on heart health, the polyphenols contained in dark chocolate are transformed by the intestinal flora into molecules endowed with a powerful anti-inflammatory action.
Cocoa beans are an exceptional source of antioxidant polyphenols like catechin, epicatechin and B-type proanthocyanidins.
Several studies have shown that these molecules actively participate in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases by reducing blood pressure, the aggregation of platelets, as well as by blocking the recruitment of inflammatory cells on the surface of blood vessels. All these activities make it possible to reduce the development of the process of atherosclerosis and, consequently, the risk of ischemic diseases.
In addition to these benefits, research in recent years has also shown that the anti-inflammatory action of dark chocolate could participate in the prevention of type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer as well as neuro-degeneration such as the disease of Alzheimer’s.
The intestinal flora loves chocolate
The beneficial impact of chocolate polyphenols on health is all the more remarkable as these molecules are very little absorbed by the intestine. It is estimated that up to 90% of ingested polyphenols reach the colon, where they are then transformed by the intense metabolic activity of the hundreds of billions of bacteria present there.
Recent results indicate that this microbial metabolism could greatly contribute to the beneficial effects of foods rich in polyphenols such as dark chocolate. For example, various bacterial enzymes such as esterases, glucosidases or decarboxylases transform polyphenols into phenolic acids and short-chain fatty acids (acetate, butyrate) with anti-inflammatory properties.
According to a study presented to the American Chemical Association, it is mainly the “friendly” bacteria present in the colon that are responsible for the production of these beneficial compounds. Bifidobacteria and other lactic acid bacteria indeed feast on the polyphenols present in chocolate and their metabolism transforms these complex molecules into anti-inflammatory compounds of simpler structures which can be absorbed by the mucous membrane and distributed throughout the body via the circulation. blood.
20g of 70% dark chocolate per day
Not only are the active polyphenols in chocolate transformed in the colon, but the presence of these molecules could also influence the type of bacteria that make up the intestinal flora. A previous study had already shown that people who regularly eat dark chocolate rich in polyphenols see their proportion of good bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli increased, while harmful species, such as Clostridia, were reduced. Like fruits and vegetables, the inclusion of dark chocolate in dietary habits could therefore have significant benefits for the proper functioning of the intestine.
These observations are very important, because the predominance of good bacteria in the colon is now recognized as an essential facet of the maintenance of immune function, the prevention of colorectal cancer and good health in general.
Dark chocolate is especially appreciated for its unique taste, but it is also an exceptional food, whose moderate and regular consumption (for example 20 g of 70% chocolate per day) has several beneficial effects on health. It’s almost too good to be true!
Etxeberria U et al. Impact of polyphenols and polyphenol rich dietary sources on gut microbiota composition. J. Agric.
Food Chem. 2013; 61: 9517-33.
The precise reason for the health benefits of dark chocolate: mystery solved. 247th Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dallas
Tzounis X et al. Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study. Am J Clin Nutr. 93: 62-72.
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