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Chocolate and Gout

Chocolate and gout are a perfect match . . . so much so that I believe medicinal-grade chocolate is an essential ingredient in an effective gout diet

Not only is chocolate a “miracle food” when it comes to gout prevention, but it also knocks down the inflammation of an active gout flare.  And best of all . . . it serves as a healthy “comfort food” to help get you through the excruciating pain of a gout attack!

And I speak from experience.  I used to have one gout attack right after another . . . this went on relentlessly for YEARS.  However, I have not had a single gout attack since the day I started eating high-quality chocolate at the recommended “therapeutic dose” of 3 times per day. 

But beware:  Most chocolate is simply another “bad-for-you” candy that should be high on your list of foods to avoid with gout.  The following data on “chocolate for gout relief” only applies to the highest quality chocolate, and I’ll show you below how to tell the difference.

What Exactly IS Chocolate?

What we commonly call a chocolate “bean” is actually a seed from inside the fruit of a tree that has the botanical name, Theobroma Cacao. This pod-fruit is about twice the size of a mango, and inside contains about 20-50 seeds or “beans” surrounded in a sweet white pulp.

The Theobroma Cacao tree is native to Central and South America, and over time has spread around the globe and grows in the equator region of all continents.

Get this . . . the famous Swiss botanist Carl Linneaus gave the tree its name Theobroma Cacao which, when literally translated, means “Food of the Gods”.  Clearly Linneaus was a great fan of cacao, since notes were found in his journals that the cacao drink had “completely removed his gout”!

A Very Brief History

Among the earliest people to discover and revere the immense health benefits of chocolate were the Mayan and Olmec civilizations, as early as 1100 BC. 

Cacao was regarded to have such great value that it was used as a form of currency . . . to pay taxes and tributes as well as for everyday transactions.  In fact, the cacao bean was the standard form of currency in Mexico for hundreds of years up until 1887.

Cacao beans were brought from the Americas to Europe in the early 1500s by Columbus and Cortez.  Then during the 1600s and 1700s, chocolate became the drink of choice for the elite and affluent as a popular “social libation”, and soon its medicinal qualities began to be appreciated and explored.

Health Properties

Chocolate made from raw cacao is one of the most powerful gout foods you can eat, because it contains a huge number of plant-based nutrients called “flavonoids”, which provide the following health benefits:

  • Raw Cacao is one of highest sources of antioxidants among all foods known, due to its extremely high concentration of the classes of flavonoids called Catechins, Epicatechins, Proanthocyanidins, and Flanvan-3-ols.
  • Raw Cacao helps prevent chronic inflammation due it its favorable interaction with Leukotrienes, which goes a long way toward lasting gout relief.
  • Raw Cacao Flavonoids and Polyphenols help suppress the inflammatory response because they act as COX2 inhibitors (cyclooxygenase 2), which is the same way that many NSAIDs work. 
  • Raw Cacao Flavonoids have measurable anti-inflammatory properties, as studies have shown them to be instrumental in dramatically reducing C-Reactive Protein levels.

A Potent Source of Antioxidants

Here are 4 scientific studies I found that document and confirm that chocolate is a powerful source of antioxidants. 

  1. According to a study conducted at the University of California at Davis, the consumption of epicatechin-rich chocolate resulted in 36% higher levels of antioxidants in the blood, and 40% lower  levels of oxidative species (free radicals).
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  2. And according to another study done at the University of Barcelona, the epicatechins absorbed from chocolate can be measured in the urine, and these epicatechin metabolites give the urine an increased level of antioxidants.
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  3. Then, a study conducted by The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition confirmed that the type of chocolate product affects the amount of epicatechin, flavanol and procyanidin content remaining in the final product, with pure cocoa powder and baking chocolate having the highest concentrations and chocolate syrup having the lowest.
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  4. Finally, a study conducted by Theo Chocolate Research and Development further confirmed that the way cacao beans are processed (fermentation, roasting and milling) have a large effect on the amount of antioxidants that remain in the final chocolate product.

Chocolate as a COX-2 Inhibitor for Gout

The last study mentioned above, by Theo Chocolate Research and Development, also found that cacao flavonoids have significant anti-inflammatory effects via reductions in platelet and blood vessel cell activation and a decrease in the expression of inflammatory mediators.

And, according to Dr. Steven Warren, Founder and Director of The Foundation for Flavonoid Research, the flavonoids in chocolate help reduce the inflammatory symptoms of gout as follows:

“Flavonoids or bioflavonoids (the old name was “tannins”) are compounds that give vegetables, fruits, grains, leaves, flowers and bark their color. The colors include the deep red, purple, mauve, blue and red. These compounds also protect the plants from disease, UV light and from predators.

Have you ever wondered why a chocolate bar left at room temperature never spoils? The reason is that cocoa/chocolate contains potent antioxidants. Cocoa powder is rich in the polyphenols, mainly flavonoids:  flavan-3-ols, flavonols (epicatechin and catechin), and procyanidins.

The bioflavonoids inhibit COX-2 enzymes in your body, the same strong anti-inflammatory action that many prescription drugs have. By blocking COX-2 enzymes your immune system works better, decreases pain in your joints, and stops further production of free radicals.”

Chocolate is Found to Reduce CRP levels

Another inflammation characteristic that is reduced by chocolate is CRP, which is an indicator of the presence of inflammation. The following description of CRP is made available by Lipid-Clinic.com:

“C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammatory marker – a substance that the body releases in response to inflammation. High levels of CRP in the blood mean that there is inflammation somewhere in the body. ―Acute inflammation (arthritis), infection (cold, bronchitis, etc.), and tissue injury (joint sprain or muscle strain) can raise C-reactive protein levels.”

The following statement from Dr. Steven Warren, of The Foundation for Flavonoid Research, discusses how chocolate consumption relates to the CRP marker:

“A 2008 study performed in Italy examined the connection between inflammation and regular consumption of dark chocolate. The researchers here concluded that cacao’s capacity to decrease inflammation is what provides most of the health benefits to the body. The Italian scientists found that flavonoid-enriched cocoa did indeed decrease serum CRP in a large population of Italian patients.”

How Chocolate Helps Gouty Arthritis

The word “Arthritis” comes from the joining of two Greek words: “joint” and “inflammation”.  There are over 100 forms of arthritis, all with different causes, and as you I know all too well . . . one of the most painful forms is “gouty arthritis”.

Chocolate can help both in the treating of active gout flares after they’ve begun, and also in the prevention of future gout attacks, in two ways:

  1. First, during an active gout attack, the strong anti-inflammatory properties of cacao can help interrupt the inflammatory response cycle, which if left unchecked can make a mild gout attack go ballistic on you.  This anti-inflammatory effect is created through the flavonoids and also the procyanidins present in raw cacao.
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  2. Second, in between gout attacks, the strong antioxidant properties help keep your body functioning at its best, and this includes the health of the kidneys which are critical in preventing future gout attacks.  The antioxidant effect of chocolate is provided primarily by the epicatechin flavonoids, since they are more bio-absorbable than the catechins and the other flavonoids.

Cacao or Cocoa?

These are simply degrees of food processing and adulteration . . . follow me here: 

  • Cacao is the raw seed of the Theobroma Cacao tree. The cacao beans are intensely bitter in flavor, so much so that no one eats them raw.  Typically, they undergo a series of processes consisting of fermentation, sprouting, drying, cleaning, and finally roasting to bring out a better flavor.  But even then, they are only barely edible.
  • Cocoa is the powder left over after the natural, healthy fat (cocoa butter) from the cacao beans has been removed.  Sadly, this very healthy cocoa butter is usually sold off to the cosmetics industry, and other completely unhealthy fats are put back in to make chocolate.
  • Chocolate, is its bar form, is what you get by mixing cocoa powder with other flavor-enhancing ingredients. In commercial chocolate candy this typically includes unhealthy fats, sugars, milk, alkalizing salts, flavorings, etc.  But with “healthy chocolate” this only includes some healthy fats and natural sweeteners.

Heat Kills Flavonoids

This is important:  Heat significantly reduces the flavonoid content in chocolate.  So, remember all that evidence above?  . . . about how flavonoids are the main compound that gives chocolate its medicinal qualities that help eliminate the symptoms of gout?

The problem is that 99.99% of all chocolate you can buy commercially has been heated to very high temperatures, and are thus significantly lacking in the healthy flavonoids.

There are only a few companies I know of that take the time to process the cacao with a low level of heat, so that the flavonoids remain intact and it behaves as a potent superfood.  And then the problem is that the resulting chocolate is usually too expensive to eat on a daily bases.  Except for one company.

Candy or Superfood?

It’s exactly the same as every other food on this planet.  When you eat it organically grown, fresh, and minimally processed . . . you will get the maximum nutrition from it. 

Chocolate as a “candy” is the crap you get that barely has any real cacao in it, and the main ingredients are high-fructose-corn-syrup, petroleum wax, artificial food colorings, lots of preservatives, etc . . . with just enough cacao to satisfy the food labeling laws.  Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  Make no mistake: Candy is one of the foods that cause gout.

But chocolate as a “Superfood” has a high percentage of pure raw cacao, that has been heated at low temperatures to preserve the flavonoids, and with just enough healthy sugars added to make it palatable. You’ve probably never eaten such a delicacy since it’s hard to find, but take it from me . . . it is truly delicious!

And by the way, the so-called “gourmet” chocolates . . . Godiva, Ghirardelli, Lindt, Hershey’s, Nestles, Dove, Theo, Chocolove, Dagoba, Green and Black, Amedei, etc . . . they are all still candy and they are gout foods to avoid!  They have all undergone a very high heat treatment that destroys most of the flavonoids, so they do NOT have the medicinal potency you need for killing gout, and thus they are NOT part of an effective diet for gout.

Where Can I Get This High-Antioxidant Dark Chocolate That’s NOT Candy?

The brand of medicinal-grade chocolate I found, which essentially eliminated my gout, was a product called Xobiotic, made by a company called MXI.  MXI only sells the product in bulk through mail order, in a one-month supply to be eaten in measured doses of 3 times per day, since it is intended to be a nutritional supplement and not a dessert or candy.  (But don’t be fooled by this . . . it certainly tastes like a decadent dessert!)

Click here for more information about the Xobiotic chocolate I eat, and the other raw-cacao chocolate products that MXI makes.

 

References

Health Secrets of Dark Chocolate
http://rawdarkchocolate.com/xocai-health-secrets-dark-chocolate.html

Epicatechin in human plasma: in vivo determination and effect of chocolate consumption on plasma oxidation status.
http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/8/2109S.full.pdf+html

Human urine: epicatechin metabolites and antioxidant activity
after cocoa beverage intake.

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10715760701435236

Survey of commercially available chocolate- and cocoa-containing products in the United States. Comparison of flavan-3-ol content with nonfat cocoa solids, total polyphenols, and percent cacao.
http://missclasses.com/mp3s/Prize%20CD%202010/Chocolate/cocoa%20products.pdf

Clinical benefit and preservation of flavonols in dark chocolate manufacturing.
http://li123-4.members.linode.com/files/Clinical%20benefit%20and%20preservation%20of%20flavonols
%20in%20dark%20chocolate%20manufacturing.pdf

 

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