Chocolate is Good For You (part 3)

A new study in the Journal of Nutrition:

Dark chocolate contains high concentrations of flavonoids and may have antiinflammatory properties. We evaluated the association of dark chocolate intake with serum C-reactive protein (CRP). The Moli-sani Project is an ongoing cohort study of men and women aged 35 y randomly recruited from the general population. By July 2007, 10,994 subjects had been enrolled. Of 4849 subjects apparently free of any chronic disease, 1317 subjects who declared having eaten any chocolate during the past year (mean age 53 ± 12 y; 51% men) and 824 subjects who ate chocolate regularly in the form of dark chocolate only (50 ± 10 y; 55% men) were selected. . . . The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition FFQ was used to evaluate nutritional intake. After adjustment for age, sex, social status, physical activity, systolic blood pressure, BMI, waist:hip ratio, food groups, and total energy intake, dark chocolate consumption was inversely associated with CRP (P = 0.038). When adjusted for nutrient intake, analyses showed similar results (P = 0.016). Serum CRP concentrations [geometric mean (95% CI)] univariate concentrations were 1.32 (1.26–1.39 mg/L) in nonconsumers and 1.10 (1.03–1.17 mg/L) in consumers (P < 0.0001). A J-shaped relationship between dark chocolate consumption and serum CRP was observed; consumers of up to 1 serving (20 g) of dark chocolate every 3 d had serum CRP concentrations that were significantly lower than nonconsumers or higher consumers. Our findings suggest that regular consumption of small doses of dark chocolate may reduce inflammation.

These findings, like previous epidemiology of chocolate, suggest that ordinary dark chocolate produces these benefits. You don’t have to process the chocolate in special ways or preserve it in special ways. Mars, the company behind Cocoavia, a line of chocolate products that emphasizes health benefits, makes the opposite claim:

Like green tea and red wine, cocoa beans contain naturally occurring compounds called flavanols that scientists believe help promote blood flow, circulation and a healthy heart. But traditional cocoa processing often [emphasis added] destroys these natural compounds. After years of research, the makers of Dove® Brand Chocolates have perfected a breakthrough Cocoapro® process, the only patented process that retains high levels of the flavanols found naturally in cocoa.

Well, how often is “often”? And what fraction of the flavanols are destroyed by ordinary processing?

More on the benefits of chocolate: Part 1. Part 2.