Numerous studies have shown that cocoa has a protective effect against cardiovascular diseases. The reason for this has now been uncovered by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden. When a group of volunteers devoured a good-sized piece of dark chocolate, it inhibited an enzyme in their bodies that is known to raise blood pressure.
The researchers recruited 16 healthy volunteer subjects for the study. They were not tobacco users and were not allowed to take any pharmaceuticals for two weeks. During the last two days they were not allowed to eat chocolate or anything containing similar compounds, including many kinds of berries and fruits, nor could they drink coffee, tea, or wine.
When the study took place, everyone in the group – ten men and six women between the ages of 20 and 45 – ate 75 grams of unsweetened chocolate with a cocoa content of 72 percent. To analyze what happened with the ACE enzyme, blood samples were taken in advance and then a half hour, one hour, and three hours afterward.
In the sample taken three hours afterward, there was a significant inhibition of ACE activity. The average was 18 percent lower activity than before the dose of cocoa, fully comparable to the effect of drugs that inhibit ACE and are used as a first-choice treatment for high blood pressure.
When the activities of the enzyme decline, the blood pressure goes down with time. As expected, no such effect was found in the subjects. To show this, the study would have to continue over a longer period.
“Our findings indicate that changes in lifestyle with the help of foods that contain large concentrations of catechins and procyaninides prevent cardiovascular diseases,” she says
Cacao (Theobroma cacao) belongs to the genus Theobroma classified under the subfamily Sterculioidea of the mallow family Malvaceae. Cacao is one of 22 species of Theobroma.
The generic name is derived from the Greek for “food of the gods”;
The specific name cacao is derived from the native name of the plant in indigenous Mesoamerican languages. The cacao was known as kakaw in Tzeltal, K’iche’ and Classic Maya; kagaw in Sayula Popoluca; and cacahuatl[dubious – discuss] in Nahuatl.
Cupuaçu, Theobroma grandiflorum, is a closely related species found in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. Like cacao, it is also the source for a kind of chocolate known as cupulate or cupuaçu chocolate. Cupuaçu is considered as having high potential by the food and cosmetics industries
Habitat :Theobroma cacao is native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America. Its seeds, cocoa beans, are used to make cocoa mass, cocoa powder, and chocolate.
Leaves are alternate, entire, unlobed, 10–40 cm (3.9–15.7 in) long and 5–20 cm (2.0–7.9 in) broad.
The flowers are produced in clusters directly on the trunk and older branches; this is known as cauliflory. The flowers are small, 1–2 cm (0.39–0.79 in) diameter, with pink calyx. While many of the world’s flowers are pollinated by bees (Hymenoptera) or butterflies/moths (Lepidoptera), cacao flowers are pollinated by tiny flies, Forcipomyia midges in the order Diptera. The fruit, called a cacao pod, is ovoid, 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in) long and 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) wide, ripening yellow to orange, and weighs about 500 g (1.1 lb) when ripe. The pod contains 20 to 60 seeds, usually called “beans”, embedded in a white pulp. The seeds are the main ingredient of chocolate, while the pulp is used in some countries to prepare refreshing juice, smoothies, jelly, and nata. Each seed contains a significant amount of fat (40–50%) as cocoa butter. Their most noted active constituent is theobromine, a compound similar to caffeine.
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Although not often considered to be a spice, the seeds of the Theobroma cacao tree deserve to be thought of as an exotic, aromatic, flavor with medicinal values, i.e. as a spice. It originated in the Yucatan area of Mexico, and it was used as a hot drink by the Maya and as a cold, sweetened drink by the Aztecs. Linnaeus chose to call the chocolate tree Theobroma, meaning â€œfood of the godsâ€, since it was used as an offering by the Maya and Aztecs in their religious ceremonies. The word â€œcacaoâ€ is from the Mayan, ka-ka-io; the word chocolate comes from Mayan â€œchocolâ€ (hot) and Nahuatl â€œaltâ€ (water) implying that the chocolate content of the bean was extracted by hot water.
The Spanish brought chocolate beans to Europe in 1544, but the original criollo cacao trees have since been replaced by a variety of the tree called forastero; this has resulted in a blander form of chocolate which now comes from many parts of the world, including West Africa. The harvesting of cocoa pods in some African countries has become notorious, since it is based essentially on slave labor. Over the centuries and in different countries, chocolate has been enjoyed in many different forms and flavors. The Mayans added vanilla and chile to it, and this exists today as mole. Allspice, annatto, cinnamon, mace and other spices have been added to this sauce; less popular were combinations including ambergris (a secretion of sperm whales), musk, jasmine, lemon peel and so on. Sweetening with honey or sugar and the addition of milk made chocolate drinks and confections more addictive.
At one time, chocolate houses were as popular in Europe as coffee houses have become in the U.S.A. Schivelbusch comments that coffee was a â€œProtestant, northern drinkâ€ while chocolate was its â€œCatholic, southern counterpartâ€. However, as chocolate and cocoa spread from the aristocratic courts of Spain to become a more mundane drink in France, it became a more social, Bohemian, non-alcoholic alternative social drink in England and other northern countries. Eventually, the chocolaty drink, cocoa, declined in importance as it became a beverage directed at children, as an alternative to tea and coffee. Nevertheless, countries such as Switzerland and Belgium produced famous varieties of chocolate confections that appeal to ordinary and sophisticated consumers who accept that their delight in the product is a mild addiction, based on the sweetness and the deliciousness of the manufactured product. Surely, this makes the chocolate seed a spice, equal to spicy flavors such as vanilla and cinnamon. Useful Parts:
All cocoa beans are fermented, dried, roasted, crushed into nibs or pieces, then further ground into a liquid mass usually containing 50% cocoa butter.â€ (Mulherin. Spices, 1992)
Constituents: caffeine, flavonoids, phenylethylalamine, anandamide, magnesium, sulfur, oleic acid, theobromine, tryptophan Medicinal Properties * Antioxidant * Aphrodisiac * Diuretic * Emmenagogue * Stimulant
The theobromine content may stimulate the brain, since it is an xanithine similar to coffee. Recently, the polyphenols in chocolate have been generously praised as being potent anti-oxidants that may prevent degenerative diseases, thus reducing the guilt sensations of chocaholics. However, true medicinal values have not been established for pure chocolate.
Chocolate is made from the fermented, roasted and ground beans taken from the pods of the tropical cacao tree. Cacao Theobroma, named for the Latin ‘food of the gods’, contains oleic acid which may raise good cholesterol. There is plenty more good news for those of us who are chocolate lovers. Dark chocolate’s cacao content has been shown to have positive effects on mood swings, coughing, high blood pressure 119 and even contains antibacterial agents that fight tooth decay. Chocolate contains stearic acid, which does not raise bad cholesterol levels, and cocoa butter which is in chocolate, contains oleic acid, which actually may raise good cholesterol.
There are over 350 known chemicals found in chocolate, including stimulants like caffeine, theobromine, phenylethylamine and anandamide. Theobromine, the alkaloid contained in the beans, resembles caffeine in its action, but its effect on the central nervous system is less powerful and does not have the sleep disturbing effects of caffeine. It may actually be a more effective cough medicine than traditional remedies making it a safe nighttime calmer for children. 120
Phenylethylamine (PEA) is partly responsible for the “high” that you get from eating chocolate. PEA facilitates the release of dopamine a naturally occurring chemical into your body. The neurotransmitter anandamide, also found in chocolate is responsible for the prolonged pleasurable sensation of the previous mentioned PEA. This positive feeling can help support your diet goals along with cardiovascular exercise and reduced calorie intake. Whatever the reason recent studies show that adults who eat chocolate on a regular basis are actually thinner that those who don’t and that modest, regular chocolate consumption might be calorie-neutral. 3
Chocolate – what women want!
Chocolate enjoys an reputation as an aphrodisiac, which may explain the tradition of chocolates and Valentines day. It’s interesting to note that most researchers claim that women prefer chocolate over sex. Cocoa Butter is an aromatic solid butter pressed from the roasted seeds of the cacao tree that brings a supple, luxurious feel to dry skin.
. Historical View:
Cacao butter has been but lately introduced into the British and United States pharmocopoeias, but it has been long used on the Continent. It is peculiarly well adapted from its consistency, blandness, and freedom from rancidity, for the preparation of suppositories for which purpose it is official. It is also used as a basis for pessaries, as an ingredient in cosmetic ointments, and for coating pills and other purposes.â€
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
It turns out chocolate, like aspirin, affects the platelets that cause blood to clot, Diane Becker of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine and her colleagues discovered.
“What these chocolate offenders taught us is that the chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack,”Becker said.
The 139 so-called chocolate offenders took part in a larger study of 1,200 people with a family history of heart disease.
The study looked at the effects of aspirin on blood platelets. Before they got the aspirin, the volunteers were asked to stay on a strict regimen of exercise, refrain from smoking and avoid caffeinated drinks, wine, grapefruit juice and chocolate.