Prescription 2014: Chocolate for Skin HealthApril 28, 2014 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Arguably, the reputation of cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is at its high point in history, that is, at least from a health perspective. These days, it’s not uncommon to hear esteemed doctors and nutritionists recommend a daily serving of dark chocolate as part of a comprehensive, health promoting diet and lifestyle. And, because of this positive word of mouth, you can now find the largest selection of high quality, organic cocoa products in modern times. But, up until now, the health benefits attributed to dark chocolate consumption and/or supplementation have primarily focused on the inner workings of the body – i.e. cardiovascular health, cognitive function, diabetes and oxidative balance.
Today, I’m here to tell you that adding cocoa to your daily routine can do as much for your outer body as your inner physiology. However, before you go out and buy skin products containing cocoa butter, let me explain what a slew of recent studies tell us. Surprisingly, the scientific literature does not support the topical application of cocoa butter creams and lotions for healthier skin. For many years, pregnant women have applied such products to their bellies in the hope of preventing “stretch marks”. Unfortunately, at least two well designed studies refute the efficacy of this treatment.
The good news is that eating or supplementing with high-flavanol (HF) cocoa positively influences skin in multiple ways. For starters, research indicates that HF cocoa protects skin from UV damage induced by sun exposure. This is commonly known as “photoprotection”. This same variety of chocolate has been shown to increase dermal microcirculation and oxygen saturation. The net result of these desirable effects is skin that is moister, smoother and thicker. But, that’s not all. Modern reviews dispute the popular notion that chocolate is a contributing factor for inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis. What’s more, preliminary data suggests that phytochemicals found in cocoa may lower the risk of various cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, a common form of skin malignancy.
As promising as this all is, the take home message isn’t to eat large amounts of conventional chocolate candy. Rather, in order to achieve the noted, skin specific health benefits from cocoa, I recommend looking for minimally refined products such as organic cacao beans or nibs, non-alkalized, pure cocoa powder and dark chocolate bars containing a minimum of 70% cocoa content and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. As you may well imagine, the higher the cocoa content and lower the sugar, the better.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Prevention of Striae Gravidarum with Cocoa Butter Cream … (link)
Study 2 – Cocoa Butter Lotion for Prevention of Striae Gravidarum: A Double-Blind … (link)
Study 3 – Eating Chocolate Can Significantly Protect the Skin from UV Light … (link)
Study 4 – Consumption of Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Acutely Increases Microcirculation … (link)
Study 5 – Long-Term Ingestion of High Flavanol Cocoa Provides Photoprotection … (link)
Study 6 – Pilot Study on Which Foods Should be Avoided by Patients with Psoriasis … (link)
Study 7 – Skin Therapy Letter: Does diet really affect acne? … (link)
Study 8 – Cocoa Phytochemicals: Recent Advances in Molecular Mechanisms on … (link)
Study 9 – Selective Cytotoxicity of Synthesized Procyanidin 3-O- … (link)
Study 10 – Increased Caffeine Intake is Associated with Reduced Risk of Basal Cell … (link)
High Flavanol Cocoa Improves Skin Condition in Women
Source: J Nutr. 2006 Jun;136(6):1565-9. (link)
Tags: Acne, Psoriasis, Skin Care
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition