White has traditionally symbolized the unblemished essence of youth. As color relates to chocolate, however, yet another study adds to a growing body of evidence that it is the darkness of chocolate that contains anti-aging potential.
The new study, reported from University of Milan in the British Journal of Nutrition, substantiated that eating one or two pieces of dark chocolate daily increased plasma antioxidant levels and improved DNA’s resistance to oxidative stress.
Dark chocolate reduced free radical damage on DNA as soon as two hours after intake with effects diminishing in a day’s time. In comparison, white chocolate was not found to display any similar advantages.
The Italian researchers commented that the latest trial’s results, and the findings of previous studies relating to dark chocolate’s heart-protective effects, are “encouraging”—given the obesity epidemic—because the sweet treat is widely enjoyed.
They gave 20 healthy men and women, who had followed a balanced diet for two weeks prior and continued the diet during the time of the trial, either white or dark chocolate for two weeks. Blood samples were collected at intervals before intake, at two hours after intake, and at 22 hours after intake of the chocolate pieces.
Choosing Quality Dark Chocolate
The dark chocolate pieces had been standardized to 860 milligrams of polyphenols of which 58 milligrams were flavonoids called epicatechins. Epicatechins can also be found in green tea and certain fruits.
Not all dark chocolate found in the marketplace can be expected to contain the same content of antioxidants used in the trial. Antioxidant amount can depend on actual content of cocoa (generally, the darker the better) and the cocoa’s quality.
Cocoa’s natural content of flavonoids, for example, can often be lost through “dutch” processing or other manufacturing methods.
For greatest antioxidant benefit, consumers should seek out brands of dark chocolate with known content of flavonoids as compared by measurements of antioxidant strength such as Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and other health authorities recommend receiving 3,000-5,000 ORAC units daily for best support against free radicals, which equates to eating only one or two pieces of dark chocolate per day.
Want to take advantage of heart-healthy and anti-aging benefits? News of this study comes just in time for a sweet holiday deal on quality, high-ORAC dark chocolates.