A recent study by the European Association for the Study of the Liver presented at the International Liver Congress in Austria suggests that the consumption of dark chocolate may help in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver; scarring of liver tissue due to alcohol or toxic drug use, which can also be caused by a viral infection.
Cirrhosis is a serious disease and once it has developed it is permanent, the goal of treatment then being management of the disease and slowing progression. Cirrhosis causes scarring that affects circulation and blood flow through the liver, leading to engorged blood vessels and capillaries and eventually to toxicity of the blood and system from lack of filtration through the liver. With time, if left untreated, cirrhosis can lead to other conditions such as kidney impairment, liver cancer and pulmonary hypertension. Clearly, cirrhosis is something that is serious, and something to be avoided.
Prevention is key and manageable. One obvious place to start is to control the amount of alcohol you consume and avoid all unnecessary drug use. Additionally, keep your immune system healthy in order to prevent viral infections that might disrupt normal liver function. And now, thanks to the Spanish researchers who conducted the experiment, you can also look to chocolate as a way to boost antioxidant activity in the liver and keep it healthy. While the research showed that dark chocolate helped to lower the hypertension in the abdomen associated with cirrhosis, pure cocoa has other incredible benefits that can help protect not only your liver but your immune system as a whole from chronic disease.
Cocoa (different fruits and seeds from the Cacao tree featured above) is one of the richest sources of antioxidants available, helping to prevent heart disease and cancer, as well as slow the aging process. These are great benefits for such a delicious food, but beware, while cocoa is great for you, the sugar that is often combined with it to make chocolate bars is not, so be sure to stick with one ounce a day.
The best way to get the health and antioxidant benefits of chocolate is through pure raw cacao, or a high potency dark chocolate bar that contains 70 to 80% cacao. This will minimize the sugar and milk solids that are often added to make chocolate more palatable. There are preferable raw options such as Gnosis chocolate bars that contain high quality organic cacao and do not contain refined sugar (or dairy or gluten) that are absolutely delicious and don’t destabilize your mood due to the absence of the sugar high that’s associated with traditional chocolate. For a less pricey option try Green and Black for high potency cacao chocolate bars. Another option is to try one of these great chocolate & fruit breakfast smoothies that will offer the benefits of cacao along with nutrients in berries and, if you are brave, cucumber and arugula.