Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chocolate & Health

I've written about the healthy aspects of chocolate: to fight cardiovascular disease, lower risk for cancer, help the liver, aid digestion and as a diet food. But now Science News reports that German researchers have shown that dark chocolate can fight skin cancer.

It's a small clinical trial of just 24 women who added cocoa to their breakfast everyday for 3 months. Half the women drank hot cocoa containing a big dose of flavonoids (natural plant-based antioxidants that are said to prevent heart attacks). Remaining volunteers got cocoa that had little of the flavonoids. Read the full story, but basically the outcome is that the women getting the abundant flavonoids had skin that was 11 % smoother and 13% moister with reduced reddening in response to UV light--total: by 25% than that of the other women.

Researchers are unclear about the exact mechanism for most of the skin benefits, but suspect that improved blood circulation is more than likely a factor. The skin, as with all other bodily tissues, depends on healthy blood flow.

Flavonoids help protect the skin via a twofold process—they absorb UV light that can damage skin, and they act as antioxidants, scavenging the damaging oxidants UV light creates. Some flavonoids also have been found to inhibit the inflammatory process (skin reddening) involved in sun-damaged skin.

Other foods that add ultraviolet defense are tomatoes, pomegranates, salmon and green tea.

Rx: Don't give up your sunscreen, but add dark chocolate hot cocoa every morning.

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