cacao powder on wood bowl

Over the years I have kept close track of the studies on the various benefits of dark chocolate, and those benefits are extensive. Of course the magic in dark chocolate is the cocoa content, and cocoa is loaded with health promoting compounds, which I cover in more depth in the Bomb Proof Coffee write up, which covers the science, etc. One study found  synergistic effects of combing cocoa and coffee, which is additional support/confirmation for my Bomb Proof Coffee (BPC) recipe. Back to dark chocolate!

A  refresher on cocoa:

For those not aware of some of the benefits of cocoa, here’s a brief synopsis from linked write up above:

Dark chocolate and cocoa beans!

Dark chocolate and cocoa beans!

Cocoa (the main ingredients in chocolate),  is rich in various polyphenols (including flavonoids/flavanols) and other  bio active compounds such as  amines, alkaloids,   tyramine, magnesium, procyanidins, phenylethylamine, and N-acylethanolamines. Cocoa has been shown to  reduce blood pressure, improve insulin resistance and improved endothelial function. A meta analysis found that the highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease, and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest level of intake, an that’s despite the sugar and fat content of chocolate; reduced insulin resistance and reduced serum insulin levels were associated with the chocolate consumption. There are various studies that also suggest direct cognitive benefit of cocoa ingestion as well as neruo protection. The flavanol epicatechin is believed to be the main source of benefit, but there’s a wide range of compounds in cocoa and it’s highly likely there’s synergism between epicatechin and other flavanols as well as other compounds found in cocoa, many of which are still being elucidated.

So what about athletic endeavors? High intensity exercise will increase free radical production and oxidative stress, and when oxidant/antioxidant status is left unchecked, there’s a possible increased risk of injury to the muscles and other negatives – e.g., immune suppression, increased inflammation, etc – all best avoided.   A recent study found that dark chocolate (85% cocoa),  positively modulated the oxidative stress in elite level football athletes.  Below is the abstract with a link to the full paper. While this study did not look at endpoints such as performance, the study found “…a significant reduction in muscle damage markers” in the athletes getting the dark chocolate and “These results indicate that polyphenol-rich nutrient supplementation by means of dark chocolate positively modulates redox status and reduced exercise-induced muscular injury biomarkers in elite football athletes.”

While I’d like to see if those effects translates into improved performance, reduced rates of injury and so forth, the fact remains that cocoa continues to come up win on all fronts. Some people will drink a mug of BPC as their pre workout drink, while others – yours truly included – prefer it in the morning. I can also be found eating a dark chocolate bar a few times a week while watching Simpson’s reruns, but I digress… 😉

Dark Chocolate Intake Positively Modulates Redox Status and Markers of Muscular Damage in Elite Football Athletes: A Randomized

Controlled Study
Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2018, Article ID 4061901, 10 pages

Intensive physical exercise may cause increase oxidative stress and muscular injury in elite football athletes. The aim of this study was to exploit the effect of cocoa polyphenols on oxidative stress and muscular injuries induced by intensive physical exercise in elite football players.
Oxidant/antioxidant status and markers of muscle damage were evaluated in 24 elite football players and 15 controls. Furthermore, the 24 elite football players were randomly assigned to either a dark chocolate (>85% cocoa) intake () or a control group () for 30 days in a randomized controlled trial. Oxidative stress, antioxidant status, and muscle damage were assessed at baseline and after 30 days of chocolate intake. Compared to controls, elite football players showed lower antioxidant power and higher oxidative stress paralleled by an increase in muscle damage markers. After 30 days of dark chocolate intake, an increased antioxidant power was found in elite athletes assuming dark chocolate.

Moreover, a significant reduction in muscle damage markers (CK and LDH, ) was observed. In the control group, no changes were observed with the exception of an increase of sNox2-dp, H2O2, and myoglobin. A simple linear regression analysis showed that sNox2-dp was associated with a significant increase in muscle damage biomarker release (). An in vitro study also confirmed that polyphenol extracts significantly decreased oxidative stress in murine myoblast cell line C2C12-derived. These results indicate that polyphenol-rich nutrient supplementation by means of dark chocolate positively modulates redox status and reduced exercise-induced muscular injury biomarkers in elite football athletes.


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