Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cocoa 'could get rid of the West's top killer diseases'

Not even Willy Wonka, Roald Dahl's eccentric chocolate-maker, could have dreamt that his scrumptious products might one day offer the world a panacea.
But scientists are close to claiming just that. A compound in unrefined cocoa has health benefits that may rival those of penicillin and anaesthesia, they say.
Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has spent years studying the Kuna people in Panama. He found that four of the most common killers - stroke, heart disease, cancer and diabetes - affected fewer than one in 10 of the Kuna.
Unrefined natural cocoa contains high levels of epicatechin, which Professor Hollenberg said was so important it should be considered a vitamin.
He told Chemist and Industry magazine: "If these observations predict the future, then we can say without blushing they are among the most important observations in the history of medicine. We all agree that penicillin and anaesthesia are enormously important. But epicatechin could potentially get rid of four of the five most common diseases in the Western world. How important does that make epicatechin? I would say very important."
Daniel Fabricant, vice-president at the Natural Products Association, said that the observations might warrant a rethink of how vitamins are defined. There are 13 vitamins that are defined as essential to the normal functioning, metabolism and regulation of cell growth, and deficiency is usually linked to disease.
"The link between high epicatechin consumption and a decreased risk of killer disease is so striking, it should be investigated further. It may be that these diseases are the result of epicatechin deficiency," Mr Fabricant said.

Source - Independent

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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cloudy apple juice 'healthier'

Cloudy apple juice is better for you than clear varieties, say researchers.

Polish scientists found the levels of antioxidants which protect against heart disease and cancer are almost double in cloudy apple juice.

The antioxidants, called polyphenols, are also found in red wine, berries and dark chocolate.

In the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the researchers said the manufacturing process led to fewer polyphenols in clear apple juice.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Does Chocolate Have Health Benefits?

By Art Vine

THE UPSIDE OF CHOCOLATE!

Chocolate contains high levels of beneficial chemicals and antidioxants such as Seratonin, Phenylethylaminea, Pentamer and flavonoids. It is also high in essential trace elements, minerals and vitamins such as iron, calcium, potassium, vitamins A. B1, C, D, and E as well as many nutrients. Cocoa powder is also the highest known natural source of Magnesium.

Because it contains Seratonin and Phenylethylamine, chocolate can be good for mental health. These substances are 'mood lifting' agents which are released naturally into our system by the human brain when we are feeling happy or in love. Eating chocolate also releases Seratonin and Phenylethylamine into the system, thus (as all chocoholics know), when we are feeling down or depressed chocolate can provide a 'lift', instantly improving our mental state.

Studies indicate that a chemical found in chocolate called Pentamer help can protect against cancer.

Chocolate is very high in anidioxants in the form of flavanoids Also found in lesser amounts in tea, fruit and red wine, studies indicate they protect the heart and arteries from damage by free radicals.

Magnesium deficiency is linked with hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, joint problems and pre-menstrual problems, otherwise known as PMT or PMS. This condition is caused by a pre-menstrual drop in progesterone levels and it's this which precipitates the violent mood swings familiar to so many women (and their families). Adding magnesium to the diet has been proved to increase pre-menstrual progesterone levels, helping to reduce or even eliminate the problem.

There are benefits for men too, as well as the high Magnesium and flavanoids content which are beneficial for the heart, arteries and hypertension, studies indicate that the cocoa butter in high quality chocolate, although technically a 'saturated fat', does not fur up the arteries or contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Chocolate is an unsurpassed nutritional source, providing high levels of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, a single chocolate chip can provide enough energy for the average man to walk about 170' or 50m. Napoleon carried chocolate with him on his campaigns and today most armies provide chocolate in daily ration packs for soldiers in the field. For over 100 years the British, army have issued soldiers with emergency or 'Iron Rations' of chocolate, containing very high levels of cocoa (80%+), for use in emergencies. Each 'iron ration' of 8oz's - 227g of chocolate can not only provide enough nutrition to keep a soldier going for 7 days or more, it also helps keep up moral in difficult circumstances.

STOP PRESS Nov, 06: Results of a study by Johns Hopkins University indicate that chocolate acts in a similar way to Aspirin in effectively preventing blood clots in the arteries, reducing the likelihood of heart attacks.

THE DOWN SIDE OF CHOCOLATE!

They say "there's no such thing as a free lunch" and chocolate, like all good things in life, has it's problems too. It contains sugar and fat in the form of chocolate butter and eating too much of either will cause health problems. As a result, chocolate has developed an undeserved reputation for being unhealthy.

But, although recognised as being addictive to many people, particularly to Women, chocolate itself is not really the cause of the major health problems it's been associated with.

These problems are caused by the simple fact that many chocoholics choose to satisfy their chocolate cravings in the unhealthiest way possible, by buying heavily advertised, mass produced, brand name, milk and white chocolates.

These products are generally very low in chocolate solids (ave less than 20%) and very, very high in sugar and saturated fats. The beneficial cocoa butter has usually been replaced with Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (HVO's), and there's no question that HVO's are catastrophically ruinous for your health. To make matters worse, because of the very low chocolate content, chocoholics have to eat 3 or 4 times more of this type of product to satisfy a craving for chocolate.

Filled chocolates, both the commercial variety and, sadly, many handmade chocolates, are some of the worst culprits, with centre's consisting almost exclusively of flavoured Fondants and pralines - fondant is virtually 100% sugar and many pralines aren't much better.

The upshot is, if you want a guaranteed way to to get very unhealthy in a very short time, this is one of the most effective ways to way do it.

WHAT IS THE HEALTHIEST CHOCOLATE?

To find the healthiest chocolate the first thing you need to do is start reading the labels, real chocolate should only contain the following ingredients:

Dark chocolate should contain: Cocoa, Sugar, Vanilla and Lethicin in that order.

Milk chocolate should contain only Cocoa, Sugar, Milk solids/fats, Vanilla and Lethicin.

White chocolate should contain only Cocoa Butter, Sugar, Milk solids/fats, Vanilla and Lethicin.

Flavoured chocolates may also contain a natural flavouring such as Orange oil, spices etc, it should not contain Vanillin (artificial Vanilla), vegetable fats or anything else.

For our purposes here, the healthiest chocolate is going to be that which contains the maximum cocoa solids and the minimum sugar. This would make 100% pure chocolate the healthiest option, unfortunately this is virtually inedible because of it's bitterness.

In practice all chocolate has to have some sugar added simply to make it palatable. Dark chocolate containing 70% (or more) cocoa content is generally recognised as being the healthiest option, simply because it contains more chocolate and less sugar.

If you must eat milk or white Chocolate, you should moderate your consumption and make sure your milk chocolate contains a minimumn 35% cocoa and your white chocolate contains a minimum 30% cocoa butter, with the balance of both made up of milk solids and sugar in about equal proportions.

If you like filled chocolates, either handmade chocolate or otherwise, choose those chocolates with fillings containing high cocoa content, covered with high quality chocolate coverture. Not mass produced, high sugar content Pralines or Fondants covered with low quality coatings that barely even qualify as chocolate.

Chocolate should contain ABSOLUTELY NO Vegetable oils or artificial additives of any kind.

BUT ALL'S NOT DOOM AND GLOOM!

If you love chocolate and/or filled chocolates, there's good stuff out there if you look, and as chocolate lovers become more and more discerning, demand for the real thing grows, so it's getting more plentiful by the day. For the healthiest way to satisfy a craving for chocolates, you just have to be more choosy over what you buy to eat (or for gifts) remember, the higher the cocoa content, the healthier it is..... and the nicer it tastes.

About the Author: Art Vine is half of a wife/husband team dedicated to making real handmade chocolates.

Visit Aphrodite Chocolates website for a range of handmade chocolate gifts and chocolate articles.

Reproduced with permission.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's hot to be cold

Cold spells can boost your immunity and help muscle pain and depression. But is plunging into an ice bath or a freezing chamber going too far? A sceptical Ellie Levenson examines the evidence
I'm not good at being cold: a fondness for moaning and a tendency to be pathetic rather put me off the winter months. When I was in Berlin one December and temperatures plunged below -12°C, the only way I could cope was by eating fried food on the hour and drinking hot wine on the half hour. I own more fleeces than I've had hot dinners and I've had quite a lot of those. My hot water bottle is currently one of my most treasured possessions.

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But snuggling up, it seems, is no longer the way to get through winter. Not only has recent research from the Scripps Research Institute in California shown that reducing the core body temperature of mice makes them live for longer, but cryotherapy, where people are exposed for short bursts of time to extremely cold temperatures, is the latest treatment fad. Right now being cold is very hot indeed.
Cryotherapy - which is popular in Poland, where it is available in many conventional hospitals - involves standing in chambers filled with cold, dry air at temperatures as low as -135°C. The London Kriotherapy Centre (which uses the Polish spelling) claims this treatment can help a range of ailments from muscular injuries to depression. Cryotherapy is also used by sports teams to decrease the amount of time needed for muscles to recover between training sessions.

The exposure to extreme cold is supposed to stimulate the temperature receptors in the skin to tell the brain to withdraw blood to the body's core. Once this is over, blood is pumped vigorously back around the body, stimulating oxygen and nutrient supply to areas that need revitalising. "Our motto is that you don't have to feel bad to feel better." says Charlie Brooks, director of the centre, who recommends taking 10 two-minute treatments (at £30 a time) over a two-week period.

Tony Wilson, a physiotherapist at the University of Southampton, says that in theory these claims for cold are true but that such extreme temperatures are not necessary. "What they say about the treatment is correct but you might as well just get in a cold bath and save your money," he says. This is what the marathon runner Paula Radcliffe does before a race, describing on her website her pre-race routine: "... five hours before the start of the race, I eat my last meal. Another big bowl of porridge, some banana, some biscuits, a yoghurt and a little chocolate: fuel for later in the day. After eating, I relax again, take a shower and then go for my pre-race ice bath. Athletes mix the ice and water depending on their appetite for discomfort. Some like it colder than others. I like it very cold."

Source - Guardian

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Eat Chocolate for a Healthy Heart

A few squares of dark chocolate a day could cut your risk of heart attack, say scientists.

A new study has found those who regularly eat chocolate have a lower risk of blood clotting problems which can trigger a deadly heart problems.

The researchers are advising people that eating a little bit of chocolate, especially the dark kind, or drinking hot cocoa regularly could be good for your health.

It is a message that will be welcomed by many Britons given that we are the biggest chocolate eaters in Europe.

Typically we munch our way through an average 22lb of chocolate per year, costing each of us around £72 annually.

The latest study, which could further boost sales, actually arose by accident out of other research into aspirin.

The trial by John Hopkins University involved hundreds of people who were asked to embark on exercise, stop smoking and cut out foods such as wine, chocolate and caffeine prior to the start of the trial.

Unfortunately 139 people were unable to give up their regular chocolate treat and when they admitted their 'crime' had to be excluded from the trial.

However lead researcher Diane Becker decided to monitor their blood anyway to see if the chocolate had any effect on them.

She looked at the activity of platelets, which can clump together and so cause clots.

If one of these clots leads to a blockage it can trigger a heart attack.

The team found the blood of those who were having a regular nibble of chocolate typically took an average of 130 seconds to clot when placed in a special hair-thin tube.

By contrast those who stayed away from chocolate had blood that clotted within 123 seconds.


Source - Daily Mail

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alarm as homeopathic treatments are free to make health claims without trials

Lives will be put at risk by a controversial law which allows homeopathic medicines to make unproven scientific claims, leading doctors have warned.

More than 700 medics, scientists and members of the public have signed a statement criticising a new law which they say makes a mockery out of conventional medicine.

The Government's medicines safety watchdog says the change gives patients clearer information. But critics fear that giving legitimacy to pills and potions that are based on 'magic' rather than science will cost lives.

One expert likened the change to categorising Smarties as a medicine, on the basis that chocolate makes you feel better.

Homeopathy, which has won the backing of Prince Charles, claims to prevent diseases such as malaria by using dilute forms of herbs, minerals and other materials that in higher concentrations could produce the symptoms of the condition.

Popular treatments include arnica, a plant-based remedy used to treat cuts and bruises, and malaria nosode, anti-malaria tablets made from African swamp water, rotting plants and mosquito eggs and larvae.

However, a recent study published in the Lancet suggested that the benefits of homeopathy are all in the imagination, with alternative remedies performing no better than dummy pills in clinical trials.

Until recently, homeopathic medicine manufacturers were banned from claiming new products could treat specific ailments.

But regulations introduced last month by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency allow the manufacturers to make such claims, as long as they can prove the remedy is safe.

Source - Daily Mail

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Chocolate may cut heart disease

Researchers have produced more evidence that dark chocolate may help to reduce the risk of serious heart disease.

They found eating a few squares a day may stave off artery narrowing and hardening in smokers by countering the disruption caused by their habit.

Smoking compromises the activity of both endothelial cells, which line the artery walls, and platelets, which are involved in blood clot formation.

The research, by University Hospital, Zurich, is published in Heart.

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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Prevent diabetes by eating chocolate

Chocolate could be an unlikely new weapon in the battle against diabetes, one of Britain's fastest growing illnesses.

New research shows that eating dark chocolate reduces the risk of damaging changes in the body that can lead to the condition.

But it works only if you eat plain, dark chocolate high in disease-fighting chemicals called flavanols. Milk or white chocolate is unlikely to have the same effect.

The findings, by a group of Italian researchers, reveal that snacking regularly on the equivalent of one medium sized bar a day protects against a condition called insulin resistance.

Source The Daily Mail

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Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Chocolate 'is good for you'

Chocolate may be better for your health than tea because it contains more of a chemical that could prevent cancer and heart disease, researchers have said.

The findings follow earlier research revealing that moderate chocolate consumption offers health benefits.

The new research measures the amount of catechins - the chemical thought to be behind the benefits - in different types of chocolate.

The substance is also found in tea - leading the researchers to recommend a cup of tea with a chocolate biscuit as one way to help maintain good health.

Source BBC News

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