The compound resveratrol, often associated with benefits of drinking red wine, has recently been confirmed to be present in cocoa and dark chocolate. This finding could affirm that dark chocolate has similar health benefits to red wine.
Resveratrol is an antioxidant, a type of compound that limits oxidative stress by killing off free radicals. It occurs in substantial amounts in red wine, and is thought to be at least partially responsible for the observed protection that red wine seems to provide against conditions such as high cholesterol, insulin sensitivity, and even heart disease.
These health benefits are part of the “French paradox,” which describes how the typical French diet of heavy sauces and fat, but a lot of red wine, results in lower levels of heart disease and related conditions. “Despite eating a diet equally high in saturated fat as the typical American diet, the French were shown to have about one-third the level of cardiovascular disease. Continued research indicates that moderate consumption of red wine, along with fruits, vegetables, nuts and lower amounts of red meat, may contribute to this lower risk of heart of disease,” says researcher Dr. Debra Miller.
While not found in as high an abundance as in red wine, researchers found that dark chocolate, baking chocolate and cocoa powder, all had significant amounts of the compound. “This study shows that the levels of resveratrol found in cocoa and chocolate products is second to red wine among known sources of resveratrol and forms yet another important link between the antioxidants found in cocoa and dark chocolate to other foods,” says study researcher Dr. David Stuart.
The study analyzed cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet baking chips, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup for resveterol content, as well as piceid, another antioxidant. Cocoa powder was found to have the highest antioxidant content, followed by baking chocolate and dark chocolate, with the other products following with lower contents. Picead levels were higher than in red wine, while resveterol levels were lower, though still substantial.
The findings of this study further support the notion that cocoa and derived products may have health benefits. Past research showed that flavanols, another type of antioxidant, were present in cocoa in high amounts and might help with health. Now resveratrols, which are related but still very different from flavanols, might provide even further health protection, to a comparable level with that of red wine. “For years, flavanols, a different class of compounds in chocolate, received most of the attention, but these are quite different than resveratrol. It is exciting to see additional antioxidants identified in cocoa and chocolate,” concludes study researcher Dr. Jeff Hurst.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Miller, Debra. Stuart, David. Hurst, Jeff. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry news release. October 2008.