What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Chocolate Every Day by Isabel Vasquez for EatingWell.com, 4 December 2022.
If you’re a chocolate lover, you may feel confused about whether eating it is beneficial or detrimental to your health. As you know, chocolate has various forms. White chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate—all have different ingredient makeup and, as a result, their nutritional profiles aren’t the same. Much of the research has been conducted on milk chocolate and dark chocolate as these contain cacao solids, parts of the cacao plant. After these solids are roasted, they are known as cocoa. Many of the purported health benefits of chocolate are related to components of cacao solids. It may surprise you, but white chocolate actually doesn’t contain cacao solids; it only contains cocoa butter.
The latest research on the health effects of eating chocolate regularly:
- Might Improve Your Heart Health: Cacao contains flavonoids—antioxidants found in certain foods such as tea, berries, leafy vegetables and wine. Flavonoids have various health benefits, including improved heart health. Since dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cacao solids by volume, it’s also richer in flavonoids.
- May Reduce Menstrual Cramping: dark chocolate is rich in magnesium. According to the USDA, 50 grams of dark chocolate contains 114 milligrams of magnesium, which is about 35% of adult females’ recommended dietary allowance. Milk chocolate contains about 31 milligrams of magnesium in 50 grams, about 16% of the RDA. Magnesium has been shown to help relax muscles, including the uterine lining. This can help ease menstrual cramps, potentially leading many menstruating individuals to crave chocolate during menstruation, per a 2020 article published in Nutrients.
- May Boost Your Iron Levels: Dark chocolate is a good source of iron. A 50-gram serving of dark chocolate contains 6 milligrams of iron. For better absorption, dark chocolate can be paired with foods rich in vitamin C, like berries, for a sweet and nutrient-rich snack.
- May Improve Your Cognitive Function: In a 2019 randomized control trial in Nutrients, daily dark chocolate intake for 30 days improved cognitive functioning in participants. The researchers attribute this to the methylxanthines in dark chocolate, which include theobromine and caffeine.
The Bottom Line: Research shows that dark chocolate has potential benefits for heart health, cognitive function and iron deficiency, since it is the type of chocolate richest in flavonoids, methylxanthines, magnesium and iron. However, more research is needed to further understand chocolate’s health benefits and the mechanisms that lead to various health outcomes.
Your gut bacteria may influence how motivated you are to exercise by Grace Wade for NewScientist.com, 14 December 2022.
Motivation to exercise may come from the gut in addition to the brain. A study in mice finds that certain gut bacteria can increase the release of dopamine during physical activity, which helps drive motivation.
Though most of us know that exercise comes with many benefits, how much people exercise varies widely, says Christoph Thaiss at the University of Pennsylvania. “Surprisingly, the motivation for exercise is not brain-intrinsic but is regulated by the gastrointestinal tract,” he said.
the researchers found that mice with depleted gut microbes spent about half as much time voluntarily running on a wheel as those with intact microbiomes. What’s more, they had reduced dopamine levels in their brains during physical activity, suggesting they found exercise less rewarding. The team then repeated these experiments in mice that had intact microbiomes but lacked neurons connecting the gut to the brain and found this resulted in the same effects seen in mice with depleted microbiomes. Together, these findings show the gut plays an integral role in motivation for exercise, Thaiss says.
This isn’t the first time the microbiome has been found to play a role in functions outside our gastrointestinal system. In fact, previous studies have shown that the bacteria in our guts may influence our mood, control blood sugar levels and even protect against inflammation linked to conditions like heart disease and dementia.
Artificial sweetener aspartame linked to anxiety by Robby Berman for MedicalNewsToday.com, 16 December 2022.
A new study at Florida State University finds that the consumption of aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener, produces anxiety-like behavior in mice, along with epigenetic changes in the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with regulating anxiety and fear. These changes persisted for up to two subsequent generations. The study’s findings point to follow-up research regarding aspartame and anxiety in humans. Aspartame is a widely consumed artificial sweetener found in thousands of drinks and food products globally. A great deal of research has investigated its safety and effects.
The study also found that changes in the amygdala persisted for up to two subsequent generations through males, as did the effectiveness of diazepam in relieving anxiety. The study appears in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aspartame is around 200 times sweeter than sucrose or table sugar. Aspartame does contain some calories but because it is so much sweeter than table sugar, consumers are likely to use less of it. It was invented accidentally in 1965 by James M. Schlatter, who licked his fingers while working on a medication for ulcers, and discovered his compound’s exceptional sweetness.
After being approved as a food additive, commercial production of aspartame — and its use in diet products — began in 1981. According to the new study’s authors, the annual production of aspartame is 3,000 to 5,000 metric tons worldwide.
A 2017 study found that 25.1% of children and 41.4% of adults in the U.S. reported using low-calorie sweeteners. The FDA recommends a daily intake of aspartame of no greater than 50 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight. A packet or sachet of Equal contains about 37 milligrams of aspartame. A 12-ounce can of diet soda contains around 200 milligrams.
Anxiety in mice was the result of consuming the equivalent of just 15% of the FDA’s maximum recommendation.
The new study’s senior investigator, Dr. Pradeep G. Bhide, director of the Center for Brain Repair at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL said: “The amount of aspartame consumed by the mice in our study was representative of the amount consumed by some individuals: two to four small, 8-ounce cans of aspartame-sweetened diet soda per day.”
Lead and Cadmium Could Be in Your Dark Chocolate by Kevin Loria for ConsumerReports.org, 15 December 2022.
There’s a dark side to this “healthier” chocolate. Research has found that some dark chocolate bars contain cadmium and lead—two heavy metals linked to a host of health problems in children and adults.
The chocolate industry has been grappling with ways to lower those levels. To see how much of a risk these favorite treats pose, Consumer Reports scientists recently measured the amount of heavy metals in 28 dark chocolate bars. They detected cadmium and lead in all of them.
For 23 of the bars, eating just an ounce a day would put an adult over a level that public health authorities and CR’s experts say may be harmful for at least one of those heavy metals. Five of the bars were above those levels for both cadmium and lead.
That’s risky stuff: Consistent, long-term exposure to even small amounts of heavy metals can lead to a variety of health problems. The danger is greatest for pregnant people and young children because the metals can cause developmental problems, affect brain development, and lead to lower IQ, says Tunde Akinleye, the CR food safety researcher who led this testing project.
“But there are risks for people of any age,” he says. Frequent exposure to lead in adults, for example, can lead to nervous system problems, hypertension, immune system suppression, kidney damage, and reproductive issues. While most people don’t eat chocolate every day, 15 percent do, according to the market research firm Mintel.