Food for Thought
The evidence supporting the health benefits of dark chocolate can now be tied scientifically to the millions of microbes living in your gut.
Louisiana State University researchers reported in mid-March, at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, that certain bacteria in the stomach feed on dark chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart.
Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study’s researchers, explained it in a press release: “We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones. The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate,” she said. “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 strains.
“When these [‘good’] compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke,” said John Finley, PhD, who led the work. This study is the first to look at the effects of dark chocolate on the various types of bacteria in the stomach, according to Finley. People may experience even more health benefits when dark chocolate is combined with solid fruits like pomegranates and açai, he added.