Chocolate and Cholesterol Article
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- The following article appeared in the San Francisco
Chronicle on Friday, September 20, 1996. Written by David Periman,
Chronicle Science Editor.
- Chocolate May Help Fight 'Bad' Cholesterol
- Wine chemist discovers sweet news
- Chocolate may be the despair of dieters, but it also contains a class
of chemicals that might help lower the risk of heart disease, according
to researchers at the University of California at Davis.
- Wine chemist Andrew Waterhouse and his colleagues have long studied
the possible health benefits of compounds called phenolics. These chemicals
are abundant in red wine and are believed to help prevent so-called "bad"
cholesterol from clogging coronary arteries with fatty substances known
- In a report to be published in tomorrow's issue of the medical journal
Lancet, the UC Davis group suggests that the phenolics in chocolate might
be beneficial, despite the fact that the candy is high in fats, sugar and
- Although cholesterol is found in animal fats, it is also made by the
body and is needed to help build cell walls as well as many hormones.
- But before cholesterol can be transported through the bloodstream,
it must by combined with fats and proteins into particles called lipoproteins.
Low-density lipoproteins, or LDL, are known as the "bad" cholesterol,
and they are the artery-blockers. the "good" high-density lipoproteins,
or HDL, are believed to scavenge excess cholesterol from the bloodstream
and carry it to the liver for excretion.
- Phenolics, according to current thinking, are among several compounds
in foods that prevent oxygen from combining with low-density lipoproteins
- a process called oxidation. This minimizes the ability of LDL to damage
artery walls and contribute to the buildup of plaque.
- In their laboratory experiments with extracts of cocoa powder, Waterhouse
and his colleagues found that the phenols in cocoa strongly inhibited the
oxidation of low-density lipoproteins taken from samples of human blood.
- But whether the same phenols from various forms of chocolate would
have the same effect in the human body remains unknown, Waterhouse said.
- The researchers estimate that an ounce and a half of mild chocolate
contains 205 milligrams of phenolics, while a cup of hot chocolate has
146 milligrams. By comparison, a typical glass of red wine contains about
210 milligrams of phenolics, Waterhouse says.
- "We certainly aren't suggesting that people start eating chocolate
to prevent coronary heart disease," Waterhouse said. "The results
of this study simply indicate that if dietary phenolics do act as antioxidants
in the body, then chocolate would be a good source of those antioxidants."
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