Friday, June 26, 2015

Chocolate Countdown, Number 1 Reason To Eat Chocolate That You Never Saw Coming

Weight loss. Yes you do have to eat the right kind of chocolate, and no you can't over-consume it with a plunger. 

But if you can manage those two issues (quantity and quality) then this is definitely the number 1 reason to eat chocolate, that you never saw coming!

If done right, chocolate can be a weight loss super food. A growing body of scientific research is pointing to this conclusion, which is supported by more studies on diabetes, exercise physiology, satiety, and even weight loss itself.

A recent report showed that chocolate consumption was associated with lower weight and even lower levels of body fat. This particular study assessed the eating habits of 1,458 teens. They found that those who averaged 42.6 grams of chocolate day got the best weight control results (study).

Dr. Beatrice Golomb
This supports the findings of Dr. Beatrice Goulomb, showing that more frequent consumption of dark chocolate was associated with lower BMI (study). In this case, almost 1,000 adults were assessed. Those who had the lowest BMIs were not those who were more active, but those who most consistently ate chocolate.

These two studies are just correlations. In other words, consistent chocolate consumption was associated with weight control. The studies do not prove that they are causally related however.

So the studies suggest anyway that our favorite guilty pleasure may actually … just a pleasure. You would subtract ‘guilty’ altogether. Even better, if the relationship between chocolate and weight control holds up, it would mean that chocolate doesn’t represent the end of your weight control efforts, but the means. 

What other evidence supports this idea? And why in the world would it be that chocolate is actually a weight control solution, rather than a weight control problem? Here are the top 3 reasons that can help explain why chocolate turns out to be your friend in the end.

Chocolate can help control hunger cravings. The cocoa butter in dark chocolate is not only good for your heart (study), but can also increase the satiety hormones that turn off hunger (study). That way, you’re just not as hungry between meals. When this happens, chronic consumption, and calories are controlled as well.

.    Darker chocolate is higher in cocoa and lower in sugar. This means that eating dark chocolate reduces the empty calories found in higher sugar chocolates. For diabetics, this dark chocolate results in greater insulin sensitivity (study) of course, but for the rest of us it means we’re less likely to get the sugar blues – being tired and hungry, moving less and eating more.

3.  Exercise physiologists have determined that the particular kinds of polyphenols found in dark chocolate can increase your energy level and “time to exhaustion” (study). This is likely due to their impact at the level of the muscle itself: 1) increasing the number of capillaries which carry nutrient rich blood (study), and 2) boosting your energy output capacity by increasing the function of your muscle’s energy-producing mitochondria (study).

Let’s just sum up this good news. Research is finding the chocolate consumption leads to lower weight and lower body fat. This is supported by an absolute chorus of studies on diabetes, the neurohormonal impact on satiety, and even exercise physiology.

The conclusion? Eat high-cocoa chocolate, do that in control, and you give your body a chance to better control weight.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chocolate Countdown, Number 2 Reason To Eat Chocolate That You Never Saw Coming

It's good for your teeth? 

There are some caveats here (see below), and some myths to dispel but the happy news is ultimately yes.

Chocolate and Your Teeth
Have you ever heard that you should not eat chocolate because it will “rot your teeth”? It turns out that this is just a case of mistaken identity. 

Those high-sugar confections that masquerade as “chocolates” because they’ve got a patina of chocolate schmear over the top of some species of wafer, nougat, or coconut cream whatever, certainly contribute to dental cavities. 

But the chocolate in this case is just a victim of guilt by association. The sugars cause the cavities, not the cocoa component.

And the higher the cocoa content in your chocolate, the lower the sugar content. These two are reciprocal: when one goes up, the other comes down. This is great news for anyone worried about whether chocolate is eating away at their pearly whites.

Plus, the news is even better than that. Not only will higher-cocoa chocolate be less likely to cause cavities, but your dentist will love you even more because it can prevent those cavities from forming in the first place! 

Cocoa polyphenols can decrease the formation of biofilm on your teeth and also the production of acid by the streptococcus bacteria.[1]

Prevent it.

In a study conducted at the College of Dental Sciences and Hospital in Davangere, India, children were instructed not to practice any oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing, for 4 solid days! Can you imagine?

On the morning of the 4th day, one group was given a “chocolate mouthwash” (actually, it was just a wash that contained cocoa antioxidants). The second group was given a placebo mouthwash with nothing in it. In the cocoa-mouthwash group, the bacteria decreased by 20.9%, compared with that in the placebo group—and there was a decrease of 49.6% in plaque formation.[2]

These results were replicated with white lab mice, which were fed white chocolate (with a whopping 35% sucrose). But one subgroup was given extract from cocoa powder. The researchers then looked to see which group ended up with dental cavities. 

They found that the addition of cocoa powder extract blocked bacteria from causing the dental cavities that normally happen under these conditions.[3] The antibacterial source of the cavity-fighting yumminess comes from the cocoa bean husk.[4]

We seriously need this in our toothpaste. Can you imagine someone marketing a “chocolate toothpaste”? Totally counterintuitive, but also totally supported by the research. And, in lieu of Crest Choco-paste showing up on your grocery shelves, you might just stick with your high cocoa chocolate and smile! 

[1] GF Ferrazzano et al., “Anti-Cariogenic Effects of Polyphenols from Plant Stimulant Beverages (Cocoa, Coffee, Tea),” Fitoterapia 80, no. 5 (July 2009): 255–62.
[2] RK Srikanth et al., “Chocolate Mouth Rinse: Effect on Plaque Accumulation and Mutans Streptococci Counts When Used by Children,” Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventative Dentistry 26, no. 2 (June 2008): 67–70.
[3] K Ito et al., “Anti-Cariogenic Properties of a Water-Soluble Extract from Cacao,” Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 67, no. 12 (December 2003): 2567–73.
[4] K Osawa et al., “Identification of Cariostatic Substances in the Cacao Bean Husk: Their Anti-Glucosyltransferase and Antibacterial Activities,” Journal of Dental Research 80, no. 11 (November 2001): 2000–4.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Running Hills is about an even pace over significant elevation changes

My next half-M is in September, 3 months from now. The goal is to get in under 8 min/mile. My last one here in Pittsburgh was 8:09 so I think I can sneak under that time. 

To get from here to there, I'm mixing up my runs by doing hills during the week -- outside my door it's all hills. Ugh. It's like doing a stair-stepper run every 1/2 mile. 

Check out this screenshot (left). The gray shadow in the background is the elevation over the 6 mile run. The purple overlay is my pace over that span.

I'm a total data nerd, but my personal goal over time is to make the purple line as flat as possible in front of the gray mountains. Best time so far on this particular run is 8:30/mile.

Below that is just the general info on time, distance, calories, and pace. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Moms. Research finds Mediterranean diet brings fewer pregnancy woes

BEANS, beans, they are good for your heart ... the more you eat, the healthier you and your unborn children are likely to be.
At least that is the suggestion of a study (Article) that has found women who consume a Mediterranean diet before they become pregnant are less likely to develop obstetric complications. 

University of Queensland researchers interviewed women enrolled in the longitudinal study on women's health about their diet.
They were categorised into four dietary groups: meat, high fat, high sugar diet and Mediterranean diet.
These groups were characterised by vegetables, legumes, nuts, tofu, rice, pasta, rye bread, red wine and fish; the fruit and low-fat dairy diet and cooked vegetable pattern with high consumption of cooked potato, cauliflower, carrots, pumpkin and peas.
The study followed up with more than 3500 women who then became pregnant and delivered at least one live birth between 2003 and 2012.
Those on a Mediterranean diet had a 42 per cent lower risk of developing a pregnancy complication.
(article from St. George & Sutherland Shire Leader)
For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Chocolate Countdown, Number 3 Reason To Eat Chocolate That You Never Saw Coming

It Protects Your Skin. Who saw that coming? 

My dad used to harass my sister about her skin, when she was an annoying adolescent. “You know, the reason you’re having to pop those zits on our bathroom mirror in the first place is because you eat chocolate. Where do you think they come from?

It is popularly thought that chocolate consumption can produce blemishes and acne. However, after 40 years of studies, research still doesn’t have an absolute answer for us. Some studies argue that it does, while others say that it doesn’t. In other words, the jury is definitely still out.

One explanation for the scientific uncertainty is that acne may be correlated to the consumption of some kinds of chocolate, but not caused by it. For example, evidence suggests that dairy may contribute to facial blemishes, so the research that concludes that there is a positive association between acne and chocolate may actually be result from the dairy in the lighter milk chocolates.

By contrast, other results support the conclusion that chocolate may actually be healthy for your skin and even protect it from UV damage from the sun. This means that it can decrease the probability that you will get a sunburn.

In a study in London, researchers gave two groups chocolate to eat for 12 weeks. However, one group received a “high flavanol” chocolate, such as you might get with a high-cocoa chocolate. 

The second received a “low flavanol” chocolate, such as you might get with lighter milk chocolate. After 12 weeks, they tested the skin of these participants with a challenge of UV light to see whether cocoa provided any added protection to the skin from erythema (sunburn).

Over the 12 week span, the skin of those who ate low-flavanol chocolate was no more or less protected from UV radiation. However, those who ate the high-flavanols chocolate doubled their protection compared to the baseline.[1] In other words, after less than 2 weeks of eating high-flavanol chocolate, subjects’ skin was protected from burning even at twice the UV level.

Why would this be? What explanation can make that make sense?

One plausible explanation may be the fact that high-cocoa chocolate can increase circulation into the skin itself. Increased blood flow to the topmost layers of the skin (those within only 1 millimeter of the surface) has been shown in women who consume high-flavanol chocolate drinks. This in turn can provide the healthy oxygenation your skin needs to help protect itself.[2]  

Regardless of the biomolecular reasons why, it is clear that consistent consumption of high cocoa chocolate provides benefits that you never saw coming, like acting as the most delicious sunscreen you have ever had!

[1] S Williams et al., “Eating Chocolate Can Significantly Protect the Skin from UV Light,” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 8, no. 3 (September 2009): 169-73.

[2] K Neukam et al., “Consumption of Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Acutely Increases Microcirculation in Human Skin,” European Journal of Nutrition 46, no. 1 (February 2007): 53–56.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Chocolate Countdown, Number 4 Reason To Eat Chocolate That You Never Saw Coming

It can help boost your metabolism. Sounds like hype, but plow on brave reader.

But first, let’s just make sure you’re tethered to reality. Chocolate, even the high-cocoa kind that you should be eating, will not make you fit. Sorry. You can’t poke down a bar of 70% dark chocolate and be totally ripped by morning. 

It’s just not going to happen. Instead, it’ll do for your fitness exactly what it does for your weight. High-cocoa chocolate creates the conditions inside your body that help you succeed. It’s your little helper, so you can get from where you are now to where you want to be—whether that goal is in weight loss or fitness.

How Chocolate Helps Boosts Energy
Chocolate can increase your energy levels through the specific kind of antioxidants most abundant in cocoa: catechins and epicatechins. These antioxidants do two very important things to increase your muscles’ ability to create more energy for you to use. First, they increase the amount of nutrients your muscles have to work with, and then they further increase the micromolecular organelles that produce the energy itself.

To nourish and power your muscles in the first place, you have to get the nutrients into the muscular fibers from oxygenated blood. So, if you need more energy, you’ll need more nutrients, and you’ll need more capillaries to infiltrate the tissue.  That’s the first need.

The second requirement is to be able to turn those extra nutrients into extra energy. For this, you need the mitochondria, which are tiny organelles. The mighty mitochondria organelles are the power plants that make the energy that make you move. Without them, you don’t have the energy needed to move. 

So if you are feeling lethargic and don’t want to do anything but veg out on the couch and binge watch the Sopranos, you can blame your mitochondria. It won’t do you any good, but it will certainly make you feel better to blame something that you can’t see or touch, and most people don’t even know what they are.

“Hey, what are you doing?”

“Just being a slug on the couch. It’s my mitochondria.”

“Oh, that sounds awful. What is it?”

“Mitochondrial malaise, you know, a medical condition with tons of syllables.”

You’ll be so impressive, right up until the moment your friends discover Google.

Chocolate may be what you turn to during your attack of mitochondrial malaise, but it also happens to be a solution for that very same affliction. Not chocolate per se, but the cocoa in chocolate, which has the highest levels of epicatechins. That’s because sustained cocoa consumption produces a happy downstream effect on top of the increased capillary formation in your muscles: new mitochondria formation.[1]

In other words, the epicatechins you get when you eat high-cocoa chocolate do both things that you need in order to increase your energy. This is definitely good news for athletes, and also for anyone who wants to eat chocolate, and lose weight doing it.

You actually get more of a boost when you combine activity with high-cocoa chocolate consumption. The number of capillaries to your muscles increases (including your heart muscle, by the way), and the number of new mitochondria increases when those muscles are activated.

How many more? According to one study, cocoa epicatechins alone produce a 30% increase in fatigue resistance and a 30% increase in new blood supply. However, the increase in energy that you get from combining cocoa epicatechins with exercise amounts to a boost of 50%![2] In layman’s terms, that’s a huge increase in your ability to complete your exercises and to go through a normal day with increased energy.

The outcome of this is simple: fatigue resistance. And think about what this would mean for you in the context of your normal day. How much would a little fatigue resistance be worth to you? For example, if someone had a pill that could reduce fatigue without also killing your liver, causing you to break out into boils, or sending you into convulsions [“Don’t take it if you’re pregnant or operate heavy machinery; ask your doctor if convulsions are right for you”], you’d buy that. This side effect– fatigue resistance – comes from the combination of high-cocoa chocolate and moderate activity.

How long will it take for these changes to occur? It took 2 weeks for experimental animals to see a 30% increase in fatigue resistance.[3] In a separate study, it took 4 weeks to see increased capillaries and mitochondria.[4] And subjects with type 2 diabetes who were administered 100 milligrams of epicatechins per day for 3 months showed a significant increase in mitochondria.[5] In fact, before taking the epicatechins, their energy-producing mitochondria had all but withered away. It was only with the addition of the high-cocoa chocolate that their mitochondria were restored.

Does that mean you have to have chocolate every day for 3 months before you see improvements in your energy levels? (Okay, worse things could happen.) No, you don’t have to wait 3 months. You’ll see an increase in energy within those first few weeks, because the increased capillaries and mitochondria are progressive and develop over time. 

[1] L Nogueira et al., “(-)-Epicatechin Enhances Fatigue Resistance and Oxidative Capacity in Mouse Muscle,” Journal of Physiology 589, pt. 18 (September 15, 2011); 4615–31.
[2] I Ramirez-Sanchez et al., “Stimulatory Effects of the Flavanol (-)-Epicatechin on Cardiac Angiogenesis: Additive Effects with Exercise,” Cardiovascular Pharmacology 60, no. 5 (November 2012): 429–38.
[3] L Nogueira et al., “(-)-Epicatechin Enhances Fatigue Resistance and Oxidative Capacity in Mouse Muscle,” Journal of Physiology 589, pt. 18 (September 15, 2011): 4615–31.
[4] M Huttemann et al., “(-)-Epicatechin Maintains Endurance Training Adaptation in Mice after 14 Days of Detraining,” FASEB Journal 26, no. 4 (April 2012): 1413–22.
[5] PR Taub et al., “Alterations in Skeletal Muscle Indicators of Mitochondrial Structure and Biogenesis in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Failure: Effects of Epicatechin Rich Cocoa,” Clinical and Translational Science 5, no. 1 (February 2012): 43­–7.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chocolate Countdown, Number 5 Reason To Eat Chocolate That You Never Saw Coming

Because it's such a pain ... reliever.

You love chocolate, and it totally loves you back. Its cocoa creates a birthday party in your brain, with neuroactive agents to boost endorphin levels (natural opiates), stimulate your brain’s cannabis receptors, light up the brain’s pleasure centers, increase serotonin levels, and provide phenylethylamine (PEA, also known as the love drug because it is also released when one falls in love). 

Every chocoholic on the planet knows this already, and will quickly tell you that chocolate indeed “brings the happy.” But there’s another side of this feel-good coin that most people don’t even know they’re benefiting from. In addition to increasing pleasure, chocolate also decreases pain.

In this study, patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD, a condition producing severe pain when walking any distance, for any length of time) consumed 40 grams of 85% chocolate. After only two hours, they were able to significantly increase both their distance and walking speed!

Why would chocolate help reduce pain for these patients? First of all, a principle cause of PAD is actually restricted blood flow in the peripheral arteries, and high cocoa chocolate can measurably improve blood flow.

But another reason for chocolate’s pain reducing properties is that – like the drugs naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin – the cocoa in chocolate is strongly anti-inflammatory. However, unlike the drugs naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, chocolate’s side effects do not include “gastric erosions” that can lead to stomach ulcers, and even severe hemorrhage. Just sayin’.

Inflammation in your body causes the feeling of pain. Dark chocolate (85%) decreases inflammation molecules (isoprostanes) before they even start. Think of it as a very delicious version of an aspirin, but one that goes much better with a glass of red wine.

Yet another cool thing about chocolate is that it can block inflammation molecules from being formed in the first place! In this study, experimental animals had just 10% of their diet supplemented with straight, standard cocoa powder for 2 weeks. Even with just this amount, consistently added to their diets, inflammatory molecules were prevented from being created. The authors recommend that cocoa might even be used as a natural therapeutic to help reduce chronic pain.

What if you aren’t a lab mouse, or don’t have some clinical condition like PAD? What if you’re just a normal person who may exercise and then end up with creaky, achy joints? If that’s you, you may feel that post-movement aches and pains are just something you have to live with.

But they’re not. The regular consumption of high-cocoa dark chocolate can help reduce soreness after exercise.

Add this to the list of wonderful benefits! Just keep in mind that it’s the cocoa itself that provides all the pain reducing benefits. 

So in order for chocolate to become your new favorite pain reliever, treat it as a cocoa-delivery device for your body and choose chocolate that’s as dark as you can enjoy.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

Top 5 Reasons To Eat Chocolate, That You Totally Never Saw Coming

I was talking with a woman who was struggling with her weight. “You know” she offered, “if I could just give up my chocolate addiction I could finally lose the weight.”

Honey, honey, honey, I replied. Chocolate’s not your problem. Chocolate’s your solution.

She looked at me like I had grown horns and had just flown in from some other planet. How in the world could this be true. Her world just got turned inside outside and upside down.

Her misunderstanding is multilayered, like a mental baklava of confusion. Because research science has shown chocolate to have amazing health properties. It is a super food, just and good (and better in some instances) than the broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, and celery sticks that you’ve been trying to get your children choke back.

Think of what a popular parent you will be when you learn the 5 things chocolate is doing for you, and then coach your kids to eat it! They will love you, always clean their room, and call on Mothers Day. Guaranteed (almost!).

Over the next 5 articles I’m going to show you what nutrition science has discovered about the world’s healthiest food. These 5 discoveries are things you never saw coming, never imagined could be true, but happen to be so.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower's website.

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