It appears you may be able to add ‘reduces exercise-induced oxidative stress’ to the growing list of reasons why dark chocolate is a healthy indulgence. According to findings published in the European Journal of Nutrition, dark chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa was associated with a “blunting in oxidative stress after exercise.” Oxidative stress has been linked to an increased risk of various diseases including cancer, Alzheimer's, and cardiovascular disease.
Study participants consumed 100 grams of dark chocolate, a control bar, or nothing. Two hours later they were required to cycle for 2.5 hours at 60 percent of the maximal oxygen uptake level.
Results showed that intake of the dark chocolate resulted in an increase in antioxidant status before the cycling, and reduced levels of F2-isoprostane (a marker for oxidative stress) one hour after the cycling had finished, compared with the control bar.
Insulin levels were also increased before the trial and after cycling for men who consumed the dark chocolate. This supports other research that suggests that dark chocolate boosts normal responses to insulin for better maintenance of plasma glucose.
The researchers noted that extended periods of exercise are often used to model physical stress (i.e. from disease or illness), and that this may be eased by consumption of a polyphenol-rich dark chocolate.
Cocoa, which contains more polyphenols and a higher antioxidant capacity than teas or red wine, has been gathering more attention in recent years. Studies have reported potential benefits for cardiovascular health, skin health, and even brain health.
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