Good Gut Bacteria Love Chocolate, Too

If you love chocolate and have you been waiting for someone to tell you that chocolate is good for your gut? Well, then today is your lucky day.

Chocolate is a significant prebiotic and feeds the good bacteria. There it is. Just in time for Valentine’s here’s the news you’ve been waiting for.

This is the best possible news for those who want to improve their gut health and also want to continue to enjoy their love of chocolate. It seems that bifidobacterium and lactobacillus bacteria in the gut love to gobble up chocolate as much as you do. In return for the feast, the good bacteria turn the phytonutrients in chocolate into anti-inflammatories that help with heart health. It seems that the credit that chocolate has had for being good for the heart really belongs to the beneficial gut bacteria.

Without the gut bacteria playing this role, the phytonutrients in the chocolate known as catechins and epicatechins are poorly absorbed. The fermentation process breaks them down into smaller metabolites that allow them to be absorbed and lower inflammation in the body. They also act as antioxidants. This is all based on new research presented at the 247th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

What about craving chocolate? Is this a craving for magnesium like so many people have speculated? Apparently not. Your gut microbes can control what you eat. I bet you thought it was you but it is not. Both good and bad bacteria can manipulate the vagus nerve – the key connection between the brain and the gut – to make you think that you want to eat certain foods, and that includes chocolate.

 

 

Different bacteria want to eat different foods and whatever bacteria have an advantage in numbers determines what you crave. By having you eat more of a given food, they help keeps their numbers strong. The gut bacteria can even manipulate you to feel anxious and depressed and signal you to eat a given food “to feel better.”

There is still a lot of research to be done, including how we are influenced to overeat and undereat by gut bacteria. In the meantime, the next time you crave chocolate, you do not have to feel guilty knowing that it is your good bacteria talking to you to give them a good meal.

Keep in mind, that many chocolate treats are also high in sugar, not-so-healthy fats, additives and flavourings, so choose a good quality, dark chocolate. Enjoy!

References:

Prebiotic evaluation of cocoa-derived flavanols in healthy humans by using a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover intervention study1,2,3, Xenofon Tzounis et al, Am J Clin Nutr January 2011 vol. 93 no. 1 62-72

Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms, Joe Alcock et al, BioEssays, Volume 36, Issue 10, pages 940–949, October 2014

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