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Cocoa without milk can be a solution to malaria, diabetes, stress

By Sade Oguntola, Nigeria

The Common practice is for people to take their cocoa with milk. However, to be able to tap into its many health benefits such as  prevention  of  malaria,  high  blood  pressure, diabetes,  fatigue  and  stress,  experts' recommendation is that the unsweetened cocoa should be taken and without milk.

There  has  been  hints  that  cocoa,  to  man,  is healthy and nutritionally invaluable. Its regular intake, experts have hinted, does the body lots of good because of its richness in polyphenols such as flavanols that boost immune response to several diseases and ability to prevent even devastating problems such as stroke and other diseases that affect the blood vessels and the heart.

However, intake of cocoa in the beverage form cannot ensure that these several health benefits of  cocoa  are  enjoyed.  According  to  Dr. Olayiwola Olubamiwa, a cocoa expert at Cocoa  Research  Institute  of  Nigeria  (CRIN),  Ibadan, most cocoa beverages on sale contain less than 10  per  cent  of  the  cocoa  powder  that  experts always talk about as a rich source of flavanols required by the body for good health.

According to Dr. Olubamiwa, a director at the Institute,  the  cocoa  powder  also  has  a  higher amount of the antioxidants even in comparison with dark chocolate, and so makes it the best cocoa form that people should take as part of their diet.

“The  Nigerian  National  Cocoa  Development Committee's  sub-committee  on  ensuring  increased  cocoa  consumption  came  across some information on cocoa's health benefits. So far, from the several anecdotal reports, it is very exciting to note that cocoa will not only bring us money but it is essentially critical to our health.”

Dr. Olubamiwa said that many people take the cocoa  beverage  wrongly.  “The  best  cocoa powder  to  take  is  that  made  by  milling  dried cocoa  bean  from  which  the  cocoa  butter  has been  extracted.  It  is  necessary  to  caution against intake of cocoa with milk as this lowers the  potency  of  cocoa.  The  culprit  in  milk  is  a group  of  proteins  called  caseins  that  interact with cocoa decreasing the concentration of the polyphenols. In addition, sugar or honey should be used in mild quantities for best effects.”

Like  apples,  a  cup  of  cocoa,  experts have said, can equally keep the doctor away.

According  to  Dr.  Olubamiwa,  cocoa,  which meant God-food, the Mayans in South America  value  it  as  currency  and  is  featured  in  rituals because it is considered a divine drink reserved for priests, nobility and warriors. They take it as a  divine  drink  to  build  up  resistance  and  fight fatigue. Some take it that a cup of this precious drink  permits  a  man  to  walk  for  a  whole  day without food.

Quite unlike what many may know, he said like apples, a cup of cocoa, experts have said, can equally keep the doctor away. “Scientists in the United States found that a cup of cocoa is rich in antioxidants  that  help  combat  free  radicals, which have been linked to diseases like cancer, heart disease and stroke. Thus, suggesting that cocoa  is  a  better  healthy  drink  in  comparison with tea and red wine.”

Given that more and more people are now being confirmed to have hypertension, Dr. Olubamiwa said if people consciously increase thier cocoa intake,  it  will  help  to  also  lower  their  blood pressure.  He  said  that  studies  conducted  by  a team of scientists from the National Institute for Public Health and Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands,  suggested  that  chocolate  may halve death risk.

A team of Dutch scientists that studied elderly men with ages between 65 and 84 years for over 15  years,  he  said,  also  found  that  those  that regularly  take  cocoa  had  significantly  lower blood pressure. They had less arterial stiffness, thus,  making  it  easier  for  the  heart  to  pump blood  through  the  blood  vessels.  Stiff  arteries can lead to hypertension.

Unlike  the  others  that  were  not  taking  cocoa, they  were  less  prone  to  developing cardiovascular disease. Part of the reasons why they had fewer cases of cardiovascular diseases was because products like dark chocolate that many take protects the heart.

He stated, “Professor Nonnan Hollenberg from the  Boston  University,  USA,  found  that  Kuna Amerindians who live on an island off the coast of  Panama  though  eat  a  lot  of  salt  but  their blood pressure does not rise with age, and they rarely suffer hypertension. It turned out that the answer  to  the  Kunas'  unique  health  characteristics lies in their habit of drinking hot, lightly  processed  cocoa  at  least  five  times  a day.”

The ability of the antioxidant flavanols in cocoa to promote nitric oxide production in the  body to make  the  body  produce  more  of  the  hormone insulin, he said, has made cocoa consumption helpful in preventing diabetes. He declared that the  insulin  produced  after  ingestion  of  cocoa powder was more active and, hence, better at preventing  high  blood  glucose  levels  that precede or indicate diabetes.

Quite  unlike  what  many  may  realise,  several ingredients in the cocoa powder beverage such as  pentameric  procyanidin  and  theobromine also arrest breast cancer and persistent coughs respectively.  Theobromine,  he  said,  has  been found  to  be  a  more effective  cough  medicine than  traditional  remedies  and  without  side effects. In addition, theobromine, a stimulant in cocoa ensures that body muscles are stimulated and, thus, making it a nature's version of Viagra (sex enhancing drug).

Another study also hints that eating chocolate may  boost  brain  function.  In  the  study, the volunteers that consumed chocolate recipes got stimulating  effect,  which  led  to  increased mental performance.

Magnesium is nothing short of a miracle in its healing effect on a range of diseases as well as its  ability  to  rejuvenate  the  ageing  body. Ailments  that  magnesium  helps  to  alleviate include bronchial asthma, pre or post-menstrual syndrome,  anxiety,  insomnia, migraine  and hardening  of  the  blood  vessels  with  age. Meanwhile, cocoa, according to Dr. Olubamiwa, is the highest source of magnesium.

In addition, he  pointed  out  that  the  fact  that Nigeria is a malaria endemic region necessitates mothers  serving  their  children  cocoa  drink  to  protect  them  from malaria.  According  to  him, there  is  anecdotal  report  that  daily  intake  of pure cocoa beverage reduces the frequency of malaria by a Ghanaian expert, who stated that flavanols in cocoa retard  life cycle of malaria parasite as well as boost body immunity to ward off malaria symptoms.
 

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