The health benefits of eating dark chocolate have been extolled for centuries but the exact reason has been a mystery, until now.
Researchers report today that certain bacteria in the stomach gobble the chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds which are good for the heart.
The findings have been unveiled at the 247th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.
“We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the ‘good’ ones and the ‘bad’ ones,” says Maria Moore, an undergraduate student and one of the study’s researchers.
“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.
“When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke,” says Dr John Finley, 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. The researchers are with Louisiana State University.
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