For years now scientists have told us that eating chocolate with high amounts of cacao is good for the health of your heart and your blood pressure but now they think they have figured out why.

Scientists now feel that it is what happens when we digest chocolate that turns it into an elixir of health by how our guts ferment the fiber in cocoa beans.

At Louisiana State University researcher Maria Moore is quoted: 'We found that there are two kinds of microbes in the gut: the 'good' ones and the 'bad' ones. 'The good microbes, such as Bifidobacterium and lactic acid bacteria, feast on chocolate. 'When you eat dark chocolate, they grow and ferment it, producing compounds that are anti-inflammatory.'

The lead researcher on the team, Dr. John Finley added, 'In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed,' 'These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory activity. When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.'

Other significant findings were:

  • Combining cocoa with prebiotics - indigestible food ingredients that stimulate bacterial growth - is likely to enhance the process.
  • Combining dark chocolate with fruits such as pomegranates or acai may also boost its benefits

The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Texas.