Chocolate, cocoa are loaded with health benefits

Experts from across the world recently reported about the emerging health benefits and other aspects of chocolate – the food that has delighted people for almost 2,000 years.

`Chocolate is one of the foods with the greatest appeal to the general population,` said Sunil Kochhar, Ph.D., one of the symposium participants at at the 243rd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

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`The luscious aroma, taste and textures of chocolate have delighted the senses of people in many parts of the world for centuries and make it a well-known comfort food.`

Kochhar, who is with the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland, is noted for landmark research that is helping to establish chocolate`s potential health benefits.

He described one study, for instance, detailing the biochemical basis for chocolate`s reputation as a comfort food.

The study, which included 30 healthy adults, found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate per day reduced levels of stress hormones and other indicators of emotional anxiety in people who felt stressed-out.

`The flavonoids and other ingredients in chocolate with beneficial health effects originate in cocoa,` Kochhar explained.

`In making chocolate, cocoa seeds undergo natural fermentation before being processed into key ingredients for making chocolate – namely cocoa fat and cocoa powder.`

Among other presentations at the symposium, scientists reported about how the introduction of new varieties of the cacao tree that resist `witch`s broom,` a fungal disease that has decimated some crops, may affect the taste of cocoa and chocolate.

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