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I've Got a Gut Feeling About Chocolate this Weekend

Just in time for Valentine's Day and the highly probable excessive chocolate consumption... a newly published study sheds light into another way cacao (chocolate) exerts its health benefits. The new research suggests the flavanols in cacao are modified by gut bacteria, and the resulting metabolites are what we absorb and experience health benefits from.

Flavanols are compounds found in a variety of plant-based foods and beverages, including tea, apples, grapes, and nuts. Cacao, however, is generally regarded as the most concentrated dietary source of these healthy compounds.

I'm going way back now, but in 2011, I described my research into biotransformation when I was developing a new ginseng product with a company I was with at the time. It's interesting that the scientific community still isn't acknowledging the impact of this phenomenon. This is why I feel in vitro studies are basically useless. There is just no way we can mimic in a test tube (currently, with today's technology) what happens in a biological system.

Anyway, in this study, the researchers initially thought flavanols reduced toxin absorption through improvement of gut barrier function via interactions with the gut microbiome. In a series of associated animal studies, one reported changes in gut microbiome while another reported attenuated endotoxin levels.

While flavanols from a variety of dietary sources appear promising, cacao flavanols represent an emerging approach for intervention in metabolic syndrome. 

“Microbial metabolites of flavanols should be considered as potential contributors to the health effects of these compounds observed following oral administration,” the researchers noted.

“They are extensively produced and comparatively more bioavailable than the native compounds themselves.”

To my Canadian readers, hope you all enjoy the long weekend! Play safe and stay healthy.

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Source: Mechanisms by which Cocoa Flavanols Improve Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders

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