Does Dark Chocolate Cause Migraines?

After learning about the health benefits of dark chocolate, I wanted to try as many as different dark chocolates as possible and share my findings with you my readers.               As you can see from the accompanying pictures, I bought a number of high-percentage dark chocolates. However after consuming a bar of dark chocolate and cup of coffee every day for a week, I found myself wound up in the emergency room suffering from a bad headache, numbness and blindness in my right eye. I was diagnosed with a migraine and was told by my doctor that, although migraines are a genetic condition, there are certain potential triggers such as stress, dehydration, skipping meals, coffee or chocolate (especially dark chocolate).

I was very curious to know whether dark chocolate actually causes migraines, so I read some literature on that subject. Today I want to share with you the latest studies about migraine and dark chocolate.

Chocolate has been reported to cause migraine headaches, but scientific studies have not consistently demonstrated an association between chocolate consumption and headaches.

Some authors report that migraine-headache attacks might be provoked by foods including chocolate. According to an old study published in 1974, 75% of dietary related migraines are caused by chocolate—especially dark chocolate. It explains that this is because of tyramine amino acids found in chocolate. Tyramine causes norepinephrine secretion which in turn changes the size of blood vessels, thereby causing migraines.

There is also contrary evidence that chocolate does not trigger of headaches because there is too little tyramine in chocolate to do so. These studies say that while tyramine can precipitate migraine headaches, there is no evidence that consuming a low-tyramine diet can reduce migraine frequency.
There is also evidence that chocolate is able to cause a migraine attack in certain patients who believe themselves sensitive to it. A study showed that only 13 out of 80 people who consumed chocolate were then affected by a headache. This suggests that chocolate on its own is rarely a precipitant of migraines. But, as women tend to crave chocolate during stress and hormonal changes, both of which also may trigger headaches, there may be a non-causal correlation between consuming chocolate and being afflicted with a migraine.
Although the studies do not discuss this, I believe that the caffeine content of chocolate may cause migraines as well.
My understanding from these studies is that dark chocolate itself is not a cause of migraines. Hormonal changes, stress, dehydration, differences in sleep pattern and dietary triggers like chocolate, wine, cheese, and coffee may combine to cause migraines. In my condition I was tired and stressed, drank coffee and ate dark chocolate while skipping breakfast. However, despite what I’ve learned, I’m now refraining from eating dark chocolate just to be safe. But at least having this blog makes me feel connected to chocolate even if I’m too afraid to eat it (for now) !. Thanks!

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Dark and milk chocolate’s effect on appetite and energy intake.

A newly published study shows that dark chocolate promotes satiety, lowers the desire to eat something sweet, and suppresses energy intake compared with milk chocolate.

16 young, healthy and normal-weight men participated in this new study. They were given test meals which were 100 g of either milk or dark chocolate. It’s found out that participants felt less hungry, and had lower ratings of prospective food consumption after eating the dark chocolate. As a result of this after consumption of dark chocolate energy intake was lower.

If you are obsessed with eating chocolate like me this study will give you the very good news. Dark chocolate is not only going to help to eat chocolate but also will lower your total intake by reducing hunger. To put in the other words, milk chocolate is not healthy because it causes more consumption. To sum up dark chocolate is a better option.

I believe this is because of dark chocolate’s high content of caffeine content. In addition dark chocolate has lower sugar amount in it. Eating milk chocolate which has higher sugar can cause fluctuations in blood sugar. It increases blood glucose quickly and lowers it faster. That’s why it triggers hunger sooner and we never want to stop until we finish the whole package. In addition the amount of fat is greater in dark chocolate than in milk chocolate, and the fat in the dark chocolate is exclusively cocoa butter, whereas milk chocolate contains both cocoa butter and butter fat. I believe having higher content of fat in the stomach causes it to be digested harder and leave the stomach after a longer period. This causes more satisfaction. In addition more fat in the stomach causes certain hormones to be released such as cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1 and peptide YY. All of these hormones are related to satiety. Furthermore protein content is higher in dark chocolate which may again increase digestion period and cause satiety.

To eat chocolate is the most joyful thing for me. I know it is hard to change our eating habits especially starting to eat dark chocolate instead of sugary delicious milk chocolate. It may take time to get used to it but believe me it will be worth it at the end. You will be happy to enjoy eating dark chocolate while getting its health benefits especially if you have weight problems.

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Low calorie chocolate&coconut water drink

Low Calorie Cocoa and Coconut Water Drink Recipe Script

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Does Dark Chocolate Lower Blood Glucose?

Yes it is!! Finding out that Dark chocolate has even effect on lowering blood glucose made me very confused. From experience I can tell that it is the most frequently asked question from patients after diagnosed with diabetes “can’t I eat chocolate ever”? However now it is found out that dark chocolate is lowering blood glucose. Does it mean diabetic patients should eat dark chocolate to lower their blood glucose? if yes how much is suggested? and when should they eat it?

 A new study demonstrates that polyphenol-rich dark chocolate reduces fasting blood glucose levels and blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals. Also many other studies shows that polyphenol-rich dark chocolate intake improves insulin resistance, insulin sensitivity, fasting blood glucose levels and blood pressure in healthy individuals, hypertensive glucose-intolerant hypertensive and obese subjects. In another study it was observed that a short-term consumption of 100 g Flavonoid rich dark chocolate is beneficial on vascular function, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure in a population of impaired glucose tolerance patients.

 As I understand that the reason for this is high polyphenol intake reducing the risk of oxidative stress-related diseases like diabetes. It lowers the free radicals disproportionate formation thus reducing insulin resistance and as a result blood glucose and blood pressure is decreases. Simply it is because of polyphenol’s antioxidant effect feature.

These findings are very important. However in relation to glucose metabolism, inconsistencies still exist regarding the treatment duration and dose required achieving a glucose-lowering effect. In addition many studies fail to show any significant improvement in glucose levels, insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity.

I cannot suggest any amount of chocolate as a treatment method for lowering blood glucose. However to be part of healthy diet compared to milk chocolate dark chocolate is a better option with various health benefits. I can suggest health benefits but as always, moderation is the key to success for a healthy diet.

If you want to learn more about diabetes and healthy diets, you should check my friend Abdullah Alayoub’s blog. You can find very useful information about diabetes and diet treatment from his blog.

 If you are interested in answering my questions: I would be glad. I did not understand if there is difference in flavonoid or phenol amounts in different brands? Does not every amount of dark with the same percentage have same amount flavones? Will I decide which dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids by the label?

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why have manufacturers started to label cocoa percentage?

I think the latest study results about the health benefits of chocolate have influence this issue.  An interesting study was published this year close to Valentine’s Day: love, chocolate and heart…

A study which I find interesting shows that Panama Indians who consume large amounts of cocoa beverage seem to have lower blood pressure and decreased cardiovascular mortality rate compared to ones who do not drink.

Dark chocolate may improve the blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Health benefits provided by chocolate are a result of the flavonoid (epicatechin) content found in the cocoa bean. Flavonoids are natural compounds with antioxidant properties – the same compounds that give berries, red wine and green tea their health benefits.

Flavonols have a bitter taste and because of this they can be removed from most of the chocolates consumed. The more processed the chocolate the lower the flavonoids.

Also magnesium content in dark chocolate may cause reduction in blood pressure. It is interesting that positive cardiovascular effects of chocolate were not seen in people who ate similar amounts of milk and white chocolate. It seems likely that these types of chocolate don’t contain large enough amounts of flavonols.

Most of the calories in Dark chocolate come from fat, and this about half of fat is saturated. Normally, saturated fat is bad, because it has been linked to high blood cholesterol levels. However, much of the saturated fat in chocolate is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that has no effect on your blood cholesterol levels.  Combine this non-effect of chocolate on cholesterol levels with its positive effects on blood pressure, and you can start feeling more relaxed about making dark chocolate a part of a heart-healthy diet in moderate amounts.

Eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate may be a better choice when replacing another high calorie treat, particularly another type of chocolate. However how much is moderate is a question mark for me for now…

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What is cocoa percentage on chocolate labels?

I hope you’ll join me over the next few weeks as I explore the surprising health benefits of chocolate.  However, before we can begin, we need to understand the composition of chocolate and how that composition determines  the different types of chocolate.

A few months amounts ago I tried to buy chocolate but I was confused by the cocoa percentage numbers on the front pack of the products. I didn’t want to buy any of the chocolates because I didn’t know what the percentage meant or how it would impact the taste.

Because we do not have cocoa-percentage labels in Turkey or in Cyprus, and I had never noticed them in America before, I wasn’t sure if these percentage numbers were new. I wondered if these were part of a new advertising effort and whether the government required, or regulated, these numbers

My curiosity piqued, I started to search about what  cocoa percentages means.

I learned that for many types of chocolate and cocoa products The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have established standards in the United States. These standards of identity define the percentages of key ingredients that must be present in each type of chocolate.

The most important thing to realize is that the health benefits provided by chocolate are a result of the compounds found in the cocoa bean.  Pursuant to FDA standards, types of chocolates are based on the concentration of  chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor is produced by the grinding of the cocoa bean to a smooth liquid state. Chocolate liquor does not contain vegetable fat and may also be referred to as unsweetened chocolate or bitter chocolate. According to FDA standards unsweetened or bitter chocolate should have a cocoa liquor component of more than 85 percent for sweetened versions and up to 99 percent for the unsweetened versions.

There is a big difference in the flavor and sweetness between chocolate with different percentage of  cocoa liquors. The higher the cocoa liquor content, the lower the sugar percentage. As the percentages go down, the cocoa percentage decreases as the sugar increases.

I also found it interesting that the FDA has not defined a dark chocolate standard of identity for regulatory purposes in the United States. This term is often used by consumers to describe both semisweet (bittersweet) and sweet chocolate even though they have different levels of chocolate liquor. Bittersweet  has 35 %percent cocoa liquor and semisweet or sweet  has 15% percent cocoa liquor.

In milk chocolate, according to the FDA, there has to be 10 percent cocoa liquor. In white chocolate there is no cocoa liquor.

The highest percentage of cocoa bean content is obviously in the unsweetened category. However do not really enjoy unsweetened chocolate although I know it is considered the most healthy type of chocolate.

To make sure you are getting the highest concentration of cocoa, read the list of ingredients and choose bars that list cocoa solids or cocoa mass first, not sugar.

It is suggested to choose a bar with a high percentage of cocoa – 70 per cent or more.

Manufacturers are increasingly labeling the cocoa percentage of their products, and offering more dark chocolate products,  to take advantage of new scientific findings  showing the positive health benefits of cocoa and particularly dark chocolate. Next time when you go to supermarket you may notice that even classic commercial chocolates like kitkat and snikers are being produced in dark versions. Also do not forget to read next week’s chocolate and health post which will be about cocoa ingredients and their specific effects.

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