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Chocolate: the new solution for blood pressure?
Merril Diniz |
March 24, 2005
hocolate, as we know it today, comes with other mouth-watering add-ons like caramel, nuts, raisins, butter and more.
But these heady mixes are a far cry from the original concoction whipped up by members of the Aztec civilisation.
Chaitali Mishra, a History professor in Mumbai, confirms the Aztecs roasted and ground cacao beans with a host of other ingredients to make the first concoction of its kind.
The exact recipe, though, is still a mystery. Some reports say it even had chillies in it!
The story of chocolate has evolved since. Today, people enjoy a variety of chocolate.
How do you like your chocolate?
Some like it dark. Some like it white. Others prefer just about any type of chocolate.
Dark chocolate: Coco beans are processed and mixed with sugar.
Plain chocolate: Milk solids are added to the above coco beans-sugar mix.
White chocolate: This is a completely different process altogether.
It is made from coco butter, which is basically fat extracted from coco beans. This fat is mixed with milk solids and sugar; the result is white chocolate which melts in your mouth.
Nilesh Limaye, executive chef with the Rhodas Hotel, Mumbai, says, "White chocolate is not really chocolate at all because it has neither the flavour of coco nor the actual coco bean in it."
Dark or white: which is better?
Apart from the pleasure chocolate brings to the palate, a research conducted by Dr Claudio Ferri and his colleagues at the University of L'Aquila in Italy says it could have therapeutic value as well.
Dr Ferri asked 15 people, all healthy, to eat 100 grams of dark chocolate or 90 grams of white chocolate every day for 15 days.
The subjects did not eat chocolate for the next seven days. They then switched to the other chocolate type for 15 days.
Here are the findings of the research:
~ Dark chocolate, but not white chocolate, may help reduce blood pressure and boost the body's ability to metabolise sugar from food.
~ When they ate dark chocolate, the 15 healthy people showed lower blood pressure and increased sensitivity to insulin, an important factor in metabolising sugar.
~ In contrast, eating roughly the same amount of white chocolate for the same period did not affect either blood pressure or insulin sensitivity.
~ Dark chocolate contains flavanoids, an antioxidant which helps the body by neutralising potentially cell-damaging substances known as oxygen-free radicals, a normal byproduct of metabolism.
~ Dr Ferri urges caution, as dark chocolate also has a lot of fat and calories. Thus, those adding chocolate to their diet need to subtract an equivalent amount of calories by cutting back on other foods to avoid weight gain.
Dark chocolate and BP? Hogwash!
Dr N C Joshi, a consultant with Nanavati Hospital and Wadia Hospital, Mumbai, rubbishes the findings of the survey. "The whole concept could be a marketing strategy to fool people," he says.
These are the reasons he states for his conclusion:
i. Dark chocolate has 80 calories per serving whereas white chocolate has 916 calories per serving.
This difference in 836 calories could be the cause for low blood sugar levels with dark chocolate and could be misinterpreted as the ability to metabolise sugar.
ii. The people who participated in the survey were healthy. However, it is illogical to try and reduce the BP of those who have a normal BP count already.
iii. BP does not depend on a single factor like antioxidants (flavanoids), which are contained in dark chocolate. Thus, It cannot solely act to lower BP of a normal person within 15 days.