Research has found that the antioxidants in chocolate (known as cocoa polyphenols) may improve blood pressure and insulin sensitivity. This has inspired media headlines to proclaim dark chocolate as a health food. For people like me who love chocolate this is great news, but is it too good to be true?
The antioxidant benefits of the cocoa polyphenols are true, but eating a whole block each night is not likely to bring better health. Obviously there are some limitations. Firstly, the cocoa polyphenols in chocolate vary due to losses that occur during manufacture. Fermentation, roasting and alkalisation of cocoa to make it more palatable can reduce its polyphenol content by up to 90%. Even dark chocolate can end up with a negligible amount of antioxidants due to these processes.
Certain brands of dark chocolate are processed differently to retain significant amounts of cocoa polyphenols, but you would need to eat a whole 100g block per day to get any therapeutic benefit. Sounds nice, but unfortunately the increased sugar and fat intake creates its own health concerns making it impractical for many people.
Another option is to take the cocoa polyphenols in a supplement form. There are products which combine 500mg of cocoa polyphenols with herbs (gymnema and cinnamon) and nutrients targeting healthy glucose metabolism. Such a herbal combination combined with a macro-nutrient balanced diet, it is ideal for those with insulin resistance wanting to lose weight.