Dark chocolate has long been praised for its health benefits, but now scientists know exactly how it’s heart-healthy properties are released in the body, Medical News Today reported.
Scientists at Louisiana State University studied the effects of dark chocolate on stomach bacteria and found that the stomach’s “good” bacteria was responsible for releasing cocoa’s beneficial compounds into the body.
"The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate," said researcher Maria Moore. "When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory."
These anti-inflammatory compounds decrease cardiovascular tissue inflammation, which reduces the risk of stroke.
Cocoa powder is rich in flavanols— naturally occurring antioxidants— and contain a small amount of dietary fiber.
Researchers suggest that combining cocoa products with a diet rich in prebiotics— foods that are beneficial for good gut bacteria— may be even more beneficial to a person’s health. Prebiotics can be found in raw garlic, cooked whole wheat flour and as dietary supplements.
"When you ingest prebiotics, the beneficial gut microbial population increases and outcompetes any undesirable microbes in the gut, like those that cause stomach problems,” said lead study author John Finley.
The research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.