Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you that chocolate causes cancer. From possibly staving off cognitive decline to enhancing visual performance, chocolate (specifically dark chocolate) is actually good for you in many ways. But, can we go so far as to say it has cancer-prevention or even cancer-fighting properties?
All of the proven and suspected benefits of chocolate are attributed to the flavanols it contains. These are antioxidant compounds which fight damage from free-radicals, protecting cells from damage. Free radicals have the potential to damage cells and even cause cancer. Several studies have indicated antioxidants may have the power to reduce cancer risk by protecting cells in this manner.
Chocolate’s Cancer-Fighting Capabilities
We can’t simply draw a line like this, however: “Chocolate contains antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent cancer. Therefore chocolate prevents cancer.” It’s far more complex than that.
Several studies on the effects of cancer and chocolate have been done. But more is needed. Here are a few of note:
- Researchers at Georgetown University found pentameric procyanidin (found in chocolate) was able to deactivate certain proteins in the body, stopping the production of new tumor cells.
- A study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research detailed how rats fed a diet rich in cocoa had a “significantly” reduced number of markers for colon cancer.
- Similar to the Georgetown study, another at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center found a proanthocyanidin was able to reduce the proteins in breast cancer cells that would promote tumor growth.
It is possible that flavanols in chocolate could have anti-cancer benefits. Those benefits have not been absolutely proven as of yet, but existing data does show that flavonoids could be “considered as a useful cancer preventive approach.”
One must take all chocolate studies with a grain of salt, however, as many are funded by corporations like mega corps Nestle and Mars. Similar results from different studies without industry money are a possibility, but they are few and far between.
If you want to get health benefits from chocolate, our advice is to use high quality dark chocolate, produced organically and to eat it in moderation.