Now that is the kind of Monday morning I like! Three points up in the Ryder Cup (sorry, golf-haters…) and some research which says that not only is dark chocolate good for Alzheimer’s and emotional stress – but, if you have a stroke, it may prevent your brain from suffering too much damage!!
We reported on the first two back in February – see the report in our Nutrition and Mood section but now I read a report from Johns Hopkins Medical School saying that a compound called epicatechin found in dark chocolate ‘stimulates two previously well-established pathways known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because these pathways — Nrf2 and heme oxygenase 1 — are activated.’
Apparently the idea came from the Kuna Indians who live on islands off the coast of Panama who rarely got heart problems – until they moved away from Kuna. When researchers could find no genetic reason for this they started to look at their environment and found that ‘the residents of Kuna regularly drank a very bitter cocoa drink, with a consistency like molasses, instead of coffee or soda. The drink was high in epicatechin.’
However, before you get too excited ‘The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light. In the process of making chocolate, you have to make sure you don’t destroy it. Only few chocolates have the active ingredient. The fact that it says ‘dark chocolate’ is not sufficient.’
So, obviously, we need to add another criterion to our ‘freefrom’ chocolate suppliers list – and maybe we should insist that any chocolates entered for the chocolate category of the FreeFromFood Awards includes epicatechin!
If you are interested in pursuing epicatechin-laden chocolate, raw chocolate would probably be the way to go – have a look the Raw Chocolate Company or check in with Sweet Sensations – Liz Bygrave’s excellent raw food site. There is a good article about Liz who creates the most amazing cakes and desserts without ever cooking anything on the Foods Matter site.