- Published on June 1, 2011
- Written by TCHOsen
When we think of summer several things come to mind…..the kids on summer vacation, sandy beaches, lemonade or just a good old-fashioned barbecue. TCHO chocolates may not be at the top of your traditional summer list but it should be because of one mouth-watering word: Citrus.
Our Citrus chocolate bars and nibs are the perfect addition to any 4th of July bash or casual dinner. Sourced from the finest beans from Madagascar, our cacao with citrus notes allows you to bite into a creamy bar of chocolate or crunch into some nibs with that added sense of refreshment.
Consider these table suggestions at your next get-together and your TCHO additions are sure to please even those finicky guests that view cacao as a dessert or winter holiday item.
Brie and Citrus Appetizer
1 block of brie
1-3 58 gram TCHO Citrus bars
1 package of water crackers (or any plainly flavored cracker with a nice crunch)
Allow brie to come to room temperature and smear a generous portion of cheese onto each cracker. Take a 58g bar of TCHO Citrus Chocolate and break into small chunks. Place a chunk of TCHO Citrus on top of the cheese and arrange on a serving platter. You can also set up a self-serve option by pre-breaking bars, then placing all of the ingredients on a tidy-looking butcher board. If you are wanting to cut down the carbs…no problem! I go for the gold and dip my Citrus chunks directly into a dollop of brie, but each to their own.
TCHO Drinking Chocolate
This decadent chocolate drink isn’t just for snowstorms anymore! Our TCHO Drinking Chocolate serves up perfectly hot or cold. 300 gram tins are available to either make a cool chocolate drink or to shake into your favorite plain or flavored vodka (I like vanilla and citrus infused vodkas to make a luscious choco-tini). Just make sure to shake thoroughly or better yet use a hand-blender to fully emulsify the chocolate into the vodka. Citrus Nibs can also be placed into bottles of vodka to self-infuse. Yummy!
Crunchy TCHO Nib Salad
The best thing about some summer meals are the salads but only if they pack the proper crunch. I am not always thrilled adding extra carbohydrates to my greens with croutons (although delicious) but I am always looking for tasty ways to add a little antioxidant punch to my day. You too can make a delicious salad by combining your favorite veggies, greens, a vinaigrette (I prefer using apple-cider and white vinegar mixed with a little grape seed oil but raspberry vinaigrette works too) and TCHO Citrus Nibs to your salad. Either toss nibs with the salad or place on top. Mmmmmm.
Nibs on Ice Cream
To add a delicious antioxidant-punch to your favorite summer dessert add Citrus Nibs to the top of your favorite ice cream, sorbet or frozen yogurt.
Citrus and Beer Pairing
Yes we’ve heard of pairing wine with chocolate, still one of my favorite Saturday nights, but what about fine refreshing beer and chocolate-pairings? I am a huge fan of having chocolate with beer but here are some of the best I’ve tried with summer’s favorite chocolate TCHO Citrus:
La Cuvée des Trolls (A well-balanced refreshing blonde with buttery notes).
Lindeman’s Cuvée René (Any brand will do but especially the non-fruity lambics for this pairing.. The non-fruity ones have a more sour flavor with overtures of fruits but without strong fruit-flavors).
Over-Hopulation by 21st Amendment, Hop Devil (or any other IPA or hoppy summer beer)
- Published on May 1, 2011
- Written by Greta Miersma
I recently (re)-watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure—and was instantly aware of the film’s similarities to May at TCHO.
At TCHO, we’re always off somewhere, constantly gather the best ingredients and bring them back home, encounter adventures, stumble into inevitable chaos and, of course, jam out to some pretty sweet tunes. (If you need a refresher, check this out for the original movie trailer.)
“Listen to this dude, Rufus, he knows what he’s talking about.”
(Photo credit: New York Times)
If you’re familiar with the flick, you know none of Bill and Ted’s shenanigans would have been possible without Rufus. Rufus is their guide. Think Rufus: Bill & Ted as Dumbledore : Harry Potter as Louis & Jane : TCHO.
Jane Metcalfe is President, Louis Rossetto is CEO. The two purposefully wander around Pier 17 giving input and guidance and click-clacking away at emails whilst ensuring the business stays running. Rufus may win on the coolness factor of the sunglasses, but Louis and Jane would never let us almost get beheaded in medieval England.
“Be Excellent to Each Other.”
The awe-inspiring words of advice Ted gave to the people of the future (2688). Bill and Ted were excellent through music, we do it through TCHOSource. TCHOSource means we know where our ingredients come from. We do mindful sourcing, striving to grow the (metaphorical) pie bigger for everyone involved. Our people like John Kehoe, Vice President, Sourcing and Development, go down to places, like his recent trip to Ecuador, to work directly with cacao farmers. Our suppliers get better wages, we get better ingredients, you get better chocolate. Perhaps with this rate of win-win-win we will be able to create something similar to the film’s 2688 utopia.
“No Slavery” is printed on every TCHO product. Photo byJustinsomnia
The Phone Booth Issue
Finding a phone booth in 2011 is not as easy as it was in 1989. So while we certainly go many places, the journeys are regretfully devoid of a time-traveling telephone booth. Nevertheless, a few California College of the Arts students gave us a flashy 2011 alternative, the vendOTCHO.
If we did have a snazzy, electric phone booth, it would have been working overtime around San Francisco this month. During the month of May, TCHO made appearances at Inspiration Chocolate, Bubbles and Bivalves, SF Beta, SF Fine Arts Fair, Maker Faire, International Pow Wow Press Room, 18 Reasons’ Chocolate Deconstructed, and Nicole Daedone’s book launch party.
- Published on February 7, 2011
- Written by Brandon B. Jones
- Published on February 1, 2011
- Written by Nina Luttinger
The article below from msnbc discusses new research findings from Sweden into the mechanism by which chocolate lowers blood pressure. Perhaps this explains why I, an incessant nibbler of chocolate, have crazy low blood pressure (often 80 over 60)…
Why dark chocolate boosts heart health: Eating the sweet treat inhibits the action of a particular enzyme, which in turn helps decrease blood pressure
Health recommendations from experts often include exercising more and eating more whole grains, but perhaps one of the more welcome advances in medical research has been the declaration that chocolate is good for us. Now, new research may help explain why indulging in the sweet treat helps our heart health.
Researchers from Linkoping University in Sweden have found that eating dark chocolate inhibits the action of an enzyme nicknamed ACE (formally known as the angiotensin-converting enzyme), which is involved the body’s fluid balance and helps regulate blood pressure.
The results are based on a study of 16 brave volunteers, ages 20 to 45, who ate 75 grams (about 2 1/2 ounces) of dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 72 percent. Researchers led by Ingrid Persson, a pharmacology professor at the university, measured the level of ACE activity in the volunteers’ blood before they ate the chocolate, and again 30 minutes, one hour and three hours afterward.
Three hours after eating the chocolate, the ACE activity in the volunteers’ blood was 18 percent lower than before they gobbled the goodies — a change comparable to that of blood-pressure lowering drugs designed to inhibit ACE. “I was surprised by the great effect,” Persson told MyHealthNewsDaily. Previous work had shown chocolate had positive effects on cardiovascular health, but scientists didn’t know the mechanisms behind these effects, she said.
ACE plays an important role in the hormone system that regulates the kidneys’ excretion of water, which helps to regulate blood pressure, she said. High levels of ACE activity have been associated with hardening of the arteries and other cardiovascular diseases.
In general, when the activity of the enzyme declines, blood pressure decreases, though the researchers did not conduct their study over a long enough time period to observe this effect, nor did they directly measure blood pressure, Persson said.
In 1996, studies in the journal Lancet showed that compounds in cocoa — called flavonoids — interacted with LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), which suggested chocolate could help prevent the hardening of arteries. Further work showed chocolate had anti-inflammatory properties, and some studies showed it lowered blood pressure, but none specifically demonstrated how it worked, the researchers wrote.
The study was published online in November in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, and was funded by the university.
- Published on February 1, 2011
- Written by Nina Luttinger
This article discusses new research concluding that dark chocolate may help Cirrhosis patients……
Study Says Dark Chocolate May Help Reduce Dangers For Cirrhosis Patients
by FEEDME on NOVEMBER 2, 2010
Dark chocolate has heart health benefits for those with cirrhosis and a related condition known as portal hypertension, according to a recent research project. This article explains the science behind this sweet news.|Dark chocolate is not only good for the heart. It can also be good for the liver, especially in anyone who has cirrhosis of the liver and a related condition known as portal hypertension. This article provides details.
Cirrhosis of the liver kills more between 10 and 15 thousand people each year in the United States alone. Recent statistics show it to be the 12th leading cause of disease-related death in the country.
Needless to say, any discoveries that offer the prospect of a longer, happier and healthier life to cirrhosis patients will come as welcome news. But recent research has discovered some especially happy – and somewhat surprising – findings: eating certain kinds of chocolate may actually prolong the lives of people with cirrhosis and other forms of advanced liver disease.
The announcement was made at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in Vienna, Austria, in April 2010. The report described data revealing that dark chocolate reduced portal hypertension in patients with cirrhosis.
Knowing some basic information about portal hypertension and the nature of cirrhosis will help you understand the findings.
When normal liver tissue is sufficiently damaged, it is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. When a sufficient amount of scar tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver, the condition is called cirrhosis. Normally, your liver can actually generate new cells, which it can use to replace cells that have suffered damage. However, once a certain amount of scar tissue has built up, the damage becomes irreversible. Cirrhosis blocks the flow of blood through the liver, and can eventually lead to liver failure – the liver’s complete inability to function.
The two most common causes of cirrhosis of the liver are alcohol abuse and hepatitis. Either of these causes can lead to several dangerous complications.
One such complication is known as portal hypertension. Portal hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that occurs in the portal vein, which brings blood to the liver from the digestive organs. This rise in blood pressure in the portal vein often causes veins known as varices to develop across the stomach and esophagus to bypass any blockages. Due to the fact that these blood vessels are fragile in the first place, and because they’re under an abnormal amount of pressure, ruptures are more likely to occur. These cirrhosis-related ruptures, which doctors call bleeding varices, are extremely dangerous.
But a group of medical researchers working in Spain discovered that cirrhosis patients could lower their risk of bleeding varices by eating dark chocolate.
After you eat a meal, blood pressure in your abdominal area usually rises as more blood flows to the liver. This is a dangerous situation for individuals with portal hypertension from cirrhosis. The increased abdominal blood pressure is more likely to cause damage or rupture.
Dark chocolate contains a lot of flavenoids, which are chemicals that have been proven to be beneficial for the body – especially the heart. It’s been demonstrated that they also reduce hypertension by relaxing veins and arteries and facilitating blood flow. Many kinds of chocolate do not contain flavenoids, but they are certainly present in dark chocolate. In fact, the darker the chocolate, the more flavenoid content is present.
During the study in Spain, subjects received either a meal of white chocolate to eat, or a meal containing 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate. Researchers said those who ate white chocolate had an increase in blood pressure that was greater than those who ate dark chocolate. This prompted researchers to conclude that eating dark chocolate could ultimately lower the odds of blood vessels rupturing in cirrhosis patients.
Nutritional research now shows that dark chocolate doesn’t belong in the same class as other chocolates. It’s actually more of a health food.
Because chocolate contains flavonoids, it offers many of the same health benefits as darkly colored vegetables. In fact, dark chocolate offers nearly eight times the amount of flavenoids found in strawberries.
Anyone with cirrhosis should actively search for strategies to prevent portal hypertension and bleeding varices. The research reported in Spain makes it clear that eating some dark chocolate after a meal could be a good idea for people with cirrhosis.
Click on |what is cirrhosis and causes of liver failure for more. Neal Kennedy is a retired TV news anchor, medical reporter and radio talk show host. He is a frequent contributor to Keeping Your Liver Healthy, a resource website about liver health and digestive wellness.
- Published on January 1, 2011
- Written by Nina Luttinger
Doug Dalton is the founder and co-owner of Cask, Bourbon and Branch, Swig, and Rickhouse.
We had the good fortune to co-host a few holiday parties with Doug’s awesome team recently. And we fell in love with bourbon paired with our chocolate. See TCHO chocolate & spirit pairings at the end!
1) You were in the technology world originally; what brought you to the spirits world today?
I have always had a passion for great spirits. My family is from Tennessee and Kentucky, so I have always loved Bourbons and Ryes. I have been lucky to meet great distillers who have helped me refine my palate. The way I got into the bar business was I had started a company called Gloss.com that was acquired by Estee Lauder.
During that time I got to go to many club openings and see what people were doing and how they were running things. Most were clubs that were built to flip very quickly, with short life spans. I want to be a part of something lasting that really influences a community. That is what I feel we have done with Cask, Bourbon and Branch, Swig and Rickhouse. We have helped spark the cocktail and mixology culture within San Francisco. At all of our locations, whether though ecommerce, point of sale or web-based commerce systems—we have made technology a key part of our business.
2) How do you think technology affects young people today?
It seems to have made our society one of instant gratification; more and more people expect things and they want them now. Email is considered slow, texts are faster… calling someone is almost unheard of.
3) What are the most exciting developments happening in the spirits industry right now?
The focus away from spirits being a component of a cocktail to them being the cocktail itself is a trend I notice more and more. People are enjoying a great spirit on the rocks.
4) Has the kind of person who drinks spirits changed over time? Is there a geographic difference?
Everything goes through popular phases. People who have tended to shy away from darker spirits are now embracing them. At Rickhouse and Bourbon and Branch we have made many cocktails with ingredients that you wouldn’t expect to help broaden people’s palates.
5) Do you think chocolate works well with specific spirits? If so, which chocolates work best with which spirits?
Chocolates work well with almost any spirit, I was surprised at how well TCHO worked with almost every bourbon or rye I tried.
6) What other foods do you think work best with bourbon, specifically?
Bourbon works well with almost anything but what I dont think people try enough is cooking with bourbon. It can add a complexity and smoked flavor to almost any food.
7) Which of your projects are you most excited about right now?
Cask just recently partnered with Williams-Sonoma and we are very excited about working with them in the future.
8) What do you think you’ll be doing 10 years from now?
I hope the same things; using my love for technology and the spirit world to create something that is unique and exciting for my customers. ********************************************************************************************TCHO Chocolate & Spirit Pairings:
TCHO “Citrus” Chocolate with High West Rendezvous (actually a rye)
TCHO “Fruity” Chocolate with Black Maple Hill Small Batch or Noah’s Mill
TCHO “Nutty” Chocolate with Pure Kentucky
Experiment yourself — and let us know if you have other recommendations! We would love to hear them.
- Published on December 1, 2010
- Written by Nina Luttinger
a fun little blog posted on Self Magazine’s website yesterday….
just in case you have the slightest hesitation about eating chocolate this holiday season….
10 Reasons Why You Should Eat Chocolate — Every Day
Monday, December 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM
| posted by Jenny Everett
As we mentioned last week, we refuse to diet in December. It’s just not realistic, and anyone who thinks it is has freakishly good willpower!
That said, we don’t want to blow any progress we’ve been making in our health and fitness goals. So, we set out to find out which sweet temptations we can guiltlessly dig into (in moderation, of course) this holiday season. The answer, not surprisingly, was dark chocolate.
What was surprising, however, was just how keen on it nutrition gurus are. They say it shouldn’t just been a holiday indulgence, it should be a regular indulgence. In fact, registered dietician Cynthia Sass, author of Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches (which hits shelves in January) insists that her clients eat dark chocolate on a daily basis.
1. Compared to milk chocolate eaters, those who down dark chocolate eat 15 percent fewer calories, and report feeling fewer cravings for sweet, salty and fatty foods.
2. Dark chocolate contains a unique natural substance that creates a sense of euphoria (yes, please!). When you’re satisfied and happy, you’re less likely to binge.
3. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, a mineral that can help alleviate PMS symptoms, including cramps, water retention, fatigue, depression and irritability.
4. Dark chocolate contains the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and tea, which have been shown to boost brain activity.
5. Dark chocolate has been shown to correct imbalances in the body related to stress and can significantly reduce levels of stress hormones.
6. Dark chocolate has the perfect caffeine kick. One ounce of 70 percent dark chocolate contains about 40 mg of caffeine, compared to 200 mg in 8 ounces of brewed coffee and 120 mg in strong black tea.
7. The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. This means better delivery of oxygen and nutrients to every cell.
8. Chocolate’s protective natural substances also help prevent cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.
9. Heart attack survivors who ate chocolate just twice a week over a two-year period cut their risk of dying from heart disease threefold.
10. The type of saturated fat in dark chocolate isn’t the same as the artery-clogging saturated fat in a hamburger or whole milk. It’s a unique variety called stearic acid, much of which gets converted in the body to oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid.
OK, OK. You talked us into it! We’ll eat chocolate!
The key, of course, is to eat it in moderation. So keep portion sizes reasonable and try to stick to dark chocolate with at least 65 percent cocoa.
- Published on November 1, 2010
- Written by Nina Luttinger
The article below discusses a new study on the positive health benefits of dark chocolate on Chronic Fatigue symptoms…
Polyphenol-rich chocolate may ease chronic fatigue symptoms: Study
By Stephen Daniells, 23-Nov-2010
Consumption of a flavanol-rich chocolate product may ease the symptoms of chronic fatigue, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Hull in England.
Results of a small double-blind, randomized, pilot crossover study with ten individuals indicate that daily consumption of a high cocoa liquor / polyphenol rich chocolate significantly improved symptoms of chronic fatigue after eight weeks, compared with a cocoa liquor free / low polyphenol chocolate.
“As both types of chocolate were iso-calorific and had similar glycemic indices and loads, it is likely that the improvement was due to the high polyphenol content within the active chocolate, rather than a difference in of the micro or macronutrient the composition of the two chocolates,” wrote the researchers in Nutrition Journal.
“The significance of the results is particularly surprising because of the small number of subjects in the study,” they added. Chronic fatigue has been associated with a range of biological systems amongst which oxidative stress is one of them. According to the Hull-based researchers, the benefits of chocolate may be due to the flavonoids protecting cells like neuronal cells from oxidative stress. They note however that additional studies need to explore this mechanism further.
The health benefits of polyphenols from cocoa have been gathering increasing column inches in the national media. To date studies have reported potential benefits for cardiovascular health, skin health, and even brain health.
Scientists active in the area are keen to stress that chocolate and cocoa are different terms however, and not interchangeable. According to a review published in the British Journal of Nutrition, “cocoa is the non-fat component of cocoa liquor (finely ground cocoa beans) which is used in chocolate making or as cocoa powder (commonly 12 per cent fat) for cooking and drinks.
“Cocoa liquor contains approximately 55 per cent cocoa butter and together this comprises cocoa solids, often referred to on chocolate packaging. Chocolate refers to the combination of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, etc. into a solid food product,” added the reviewers.
The benefits of the bean are reported to revolve around the flavanols (also known as flavan-3-ols or catechins), and particularly the monomeric flavanol (-)epicatechin.
Six women and four men with an average age of 52 and chronic fatigue, as measured using the Chalder Fatigue Scale, were assigned to receive eight weeks of either the high or low chocolate, followed by two weeks of washout and cross over on to the other intervention. The study used chocolate provided by Nestlé PTC York, UK.
Results showed a significant improvement in Chalder Fatigue Scale scores following the high polyphenol chocolate intervention, whereas a deterioration was observed in the low-polyphenol chocolate intervention.“Since there was a consistent improvement of symptoms with high cocoa phenol chocolate and deterioration with iso-calorific chocolate, a placebo effect is unlikely,” stated the researchers.“
Moreover, the taste panel of healthy people before the study could not differentiate the taste between high cocoa and iso-calorific chocolate.
“In summary, this study suggests that consuming high cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate 15g three times daily has a beneficial effect in improving fatigue and residual function in subjects with chronic fatigue syndrome over a period of 8 weeks compared to simulated iso-calorific cocoa mass free/ low polyphenol chocolate,” they concluded.
Source: Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:55, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-55 “High cocoa polyphenol rich chocolate may reduce the burden of the symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome” Authors: T. Sathyapalan, S. Beckett, A.S. Rigby, D.D. Mellor, S.L. Atkin
- Published on June 1, 2010
- Written by Nina Luttinger
I have a few comments below the article…
HFC: Sweet News — Chocolate Boosts Vascular Function
By Peggy Peck, Executive Editor, MedPage Today
Published: June 01, 2010
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner
BERLIN — Within just hours of eating a flavonol-rich chocolate bar, patients with congestive heart failure had measurable improvements in vascular function, researchers here reported.
Flow-mediated vasodilatation measured at the brachial artery significantly improved from 4.98% to 5.98% (P=0.045) two hours after eating 40 grams of chocolate, Andreas Flammer, MD, of University Hospital in Zurich, reported in a late-breaking clinical trial poster presentation at the Heart Failure Congress.
Moreover, among patients who ate 80 grams of chocolate a day for four weeks, flow-mediated vasodilatation improved from 4.98% to 6.86% (P=0.027), he said. But while platelet adhesion significantly decreased — from 3.9% to 2.99% (P=0.03) two hours after eating chocolate, this effect was not durable. There was no change in platelet adhesion at two weeks or four weeks.
Flammer and his colleagues evenly randomized 20 heart failure patients to 80 grams of flavonol-rich chocolate bars or cocoa-free, flavonol-free placebo bars specially manufactured to resemble and taste like a chocolate bar.
Endothelial function was assessed noninvasively by flow-mediated vasodilatation of the brachial artery, and platelet function was assessed by a cone and platelet analyzing system.
There was no improvement from baseline measures of endothelial function or platelet adhesion among the 10 controls.
He noted that the dose — 80 grams — is “a lot of chocolate” and may be more than many people — especially elderly congestive heart failure patients — could easily consume. A Hersey bar, for example, is 43 grams.
Moreover, Flammer said that the chocolate bar used in the study “is commercially available in Europe, but not in the U.S.” The closest U.S. available product, Flammer said, would be Lindt dark chocolate bars — “80 grams would be almost all of a Lindt bar.”
And he said that the key to finding flavonol-rich chocolate is not, “the cocoa content, it is the flavonol content.
“Flammer noted that candy makers have responded to news stories about the health benefits of chocolate by increasing the cocoa content in chocolate and prominently displaying the cocoa content on labels. “But the manufacturers boost cocoa content by increasing cocoa fats, not cocoa itself,” he explained. That process does not, he said, increase the flavonol level. Wayne Levy, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said the small study was interesting for several reasons beyond the natural appeal of chocolate.
He noted, for example, that the daily chocolate intake had no adverse effect on other parameters including total cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and — most interestingly — there was no weight gain associated with the chocolate regimen.
Flammer had an explanation for the lack of weight gain. “They weren’t hungry after eating the chocolate,” he said.
Three things I note about this article:
1) I’m not sure why the researcher says Lindt is the closest you can come to the dark chocolate used in the study; it shouldn’t matter what brand it is as long as they use a similar % of flavanol-rich cacao in their formulations.
2) The researcher says that manufacturers boost cacao content by increasing the cocoa butter content not the flavanol-rich cacao itself. While this might be a tactic used by manufacturers who use low quality cocoa beans (you can mask bitter notes with added cocoa butter), TCHO is focused on expressing the primary flavors inherent to cacao, and cocoa butter blands down these flavors. Therefore, we use just enough cocoa butter to meet our flavor and texture goals—and, based on my personal tasting experience, it’s quite a bit less than many of the chocolate bars out there.
3) Very interesting that eating a fair amount of dark chocolate per day did not seem to affect total cholesterol, triglycerides, or blood pressure. And there was no weight gain associated with the chocolate regimen. This might explain why I’ve been working here 4.5 years and eating probably 10 times more chocolate daily than I ever have, and somehow have not gained any weight (and I’ve never dieted).
- Published on May 1, 2010
- Written by Nina Luttinger
Interesting article from ScienceDaily suggests epicatechins in dark chocolate limit nerve damage in brain following a stroke—possibly by stimulating the body’s own defenses:
How Dark Chocolate May Guard Against Brain Injury from Stroke
ScienceDaily (May 5, 2010)
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered that a compound in dark chocolate may protect the brain after a stroke by increasing cellular signals already known to shield nerve cells from damage.
Ninety minutes after feeding mice a single modest dose of epicatechin, a compound found naturally in dark chocolate, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals’ brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the epicatechin suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.
While most treatments against stroke in humans have to be given within a two- to three-hour time window to be effective, epicatechin appeared to limit further neuronal damage when given to mice 3.5 hours after a stroke. Given six hours after a stroke, however, the compound offered no protection to brain cells.
Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine and pharmacology and molecular sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says his study suggests that epicatechin 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. In mice that selectively lacked activity in those pathways, the study found, epicatechin had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.
The study now appears online in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.
Eventually, Doré says, he hopes his research into these pathways could lead to insights into limiting acute stroke damage and possibly protecting against chronic neurological degenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.
The amount of dark chocolate people would need to consume to benefit from its protective effects remains unclear, since Doré has not studied it in clinical trials. People shouldn’t take this research as a free pass to go out and consume large amounts of chocolate, which is high in calories and fat. In fact, people should be reminded to eat a healthy diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Scientists have been intrigued by the potential health benefits of epicatechin by studying the Kuna Indians, a remote population living on islands off the coast of Panama. The islands’ residents had a low incidence of cardiovascular disease. Scientists who studied them found nothing striking in the genes and realized that when they moved away from Kuna, they were no longer protected from heart problems. Researchers soon discovered the reason was likely environmental: 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 the compound epicatechin, which is a flavanol, a flavanoid-related compound.
But Doré says his research suggests the amount needed could end up being quite small because the suspected beneficial mechanism is indirect. “Epicatechin itself may not be shielding brain cells from free radical damage directly, but instead, epicatechin, and its metabolites, may be prompting the cells to defend themselves,” he suggests.
The epicatechin is needed to jump-start the protective pathway that is already present within the cells. “Even a small amount may be sufficient,” Doré says.
Not all dark chocolates are created equally, he cautions. Some have more bioactive epicatechin than others.
“The epicatechin found in dark chocolate is extremely sensitive to changes in heat and light” he says. “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.
“The new study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Heart and Stroke Association.
Other Johns Hopkins researchers on the study include Zahoor A. Shah, Ph.D.; Rung-chi Li, Ph.D.; Abdullah S. Ahmad, Ph.D.; Thomas W. Kensler, Ph.D.; and Shyam Biswal, Ph.D