New research shows there might be health benefits to eating certain types of dark chocolate. Findings from two studies being presented today at the Experimental Biology 2018 annual meeting in San Diego show that consuming dark chocolate that has a high concentration of cacao (minimally 70% cacao, 30% organic cane sugar) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity. While it is well known that cacao is a major source of flavonoids, this is the first time the effect has been studied in human subjects to determine how it can support cognitive, endocrine and cardiovascular health.
For the broccoli haters of the world, researchers may have more bad news: the vegetable may also help promote a healthy gut.
In a study, when mice ate broccoli with their regular diet, they were better able to tolerate digestive issues similar to symptoms of leaky gut and colitis than mice that were not placed on a broccoli-supplemented diet, according to Gary Perdew, the John T. and Paige S. Smith Professor in Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. He added that other vegetables, like brussels sprouts and cauliflower, may also have similar gut health properties.
There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease, said Perdew. Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions so youre not getting this leaky effect would be really big.
Good intestinal barrier function means that the gastrointestinal tract is helping protect the intestines from toxins and harmful microorganisms, while allowing nutrients to pass into the system, he said.
According to Perdew, the key to the process may be a receptor in the gut called aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AHR. The receptor helps the body regulate its reaction to certain environmental contaminants, as well as triggers other responses to toxin exposure.
The researchers suggest that cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage — contain an organic chemical compound called indole glucosinolates, which breaks down into other compounds, including indolocarbazole-ICZ-in the stomach.
When ICZ binds to and activates the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in the intestinal lining, it aids in maintaining a healthy balance in the gut flora and immune surveillance, and enhances host barrier function, according to the researchers. This may help prevent diseases, such as various cancers and Crohns Disease, caused by inflammation in the lining of the gut.