Cocoa more than yummy in tummy

What could be more pleasurable than watching a brooding winter sea with a warm cup of steaming cocoa clasped to your bosom? OK, adding a shoulder massage from your equivalent of Cameron Diaz or George Clooney to the equation might top things off but knowing that the cocoa itself could assisting your digestive system might also add something to your pleasure.

The factoid that you can spread around the water cooler regarding the bacteria in your digestive tract is that there are more of them in your intestines than there are cells in your body. Being able to share with your water-cooler denizens (does anybody actually congregate while they try to rehydrate – wouldn’t there be a lot of gurgling going on in the conversation?) that these bacteria benefit from cocoa will really cement your status amongst the hydration crowd.

Within the multitude of bacteria that teem within you there are goodies and baddies. Among the goodies we can count various strains of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. These good bacteria prevent the growth of bad bugs, support digestion, support immunity, and synthesise some necessary vitamins. When the bacteria get out of balance in favour of the baddies then disease ranging from obesity to diabetes to cancer can be the result.

In a new study healthy subjects were randomly assigned to receive either a daily drink that was high on cocoa flavanols (494mg cocoa flavanols daily) or one that was low on flavanols (23mg cocoa flavanols daily). They drank their assigned drink daily for four weeks. The researchers measured numbers and types of bacteria in the subject’s intestines before and after the four week trial. They also took blood samples to check for signs of chronic disease.

The results showed that people drinking the high cocoa flavanol drink had significantly higher numbers of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in their intestines when compared with people on the lower level drink. Those getting the high flavanol cocoa also had significantly lower numbers of clostridia bacteria which are associated with diseases like colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease.

As well as these good bacterial results, the high flavanol cocoa drinkers also had lowered levels of triglycerides (blood fats) and c-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation) indicating a reduced risk for many chronic diseases.

Of course, you don’t have to get your flavanols from cocoa; they are found in many fruits and vegetables. The usual caveats also apply that to get the most from your cocoa you need to get the sort that is the least adulterated by added sugar and other ingredients. Nevertheless, the bacterial boost that cocoa can give is another warming element to your winter cup of ccocoa.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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