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Celebrating Valentine's Day: A Sweet Treat for Hepatitis C

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. February 8, 2010

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Upon first glance, the Valentine’s Day tradition of gifting chocolates may seem counterintuitive for someone with Hepatitis C. Though, research boasts two reasons why choosing the right kind of chocolate will show you care about your sweetheart’s liver health.

Simply stepping into any grocery, drug or general retail store will remind you of the national Valentine’s Day tradition of giving your loved one a box of chocolates. An annual holiday on February 14th that celebrates love and affection between intimate companions, Valentine’s Day is usually associated with three things: cards, flowers and chocolates. Due to the liver health concerns of those living with the Hepatitis C virus, individuals with this infection likely assume they are better off without chocolate during this love-filled holiday.

Some Food Worsens Hepatitis C

Managing chronic Hepatitis C must be met with conscious awareness of the healthfulness of every eaten item. This is because the liver of someone with this virus is under enormous stress – and the liver is the organ that must filter out every chemical and toxin ingested. Additionally, foods loaded with fat can fan the flames of liver inflammation. Consequently, processed, fatty foods present an unnecessary challenge to a liver with Hepatitis C. In an effort to preserve the health of their liver, those with Hepatitis C are consistently advised to consume a nutritious, low-fat, whole food diet.

Chocolate

Most people lump chocolate into the candy category, relegating it as a high-sugar, high-fat and high-calorie junk food full of chemicals. This is accurate for some commercially sold chocolate bars. However, not all chocolate bars are created equally. High quality dark chocolate without nougat, caramel or other sugary fillings has the privilege of claiming a variety of health benefits.

Because chocolate is made from plants, it contains many of the same characteristics of darkly colored vegetables. Dark chocolate contains a high amount of flavonoids, antioxidant-rich compounds that have a collection of health benefits. Experts believe that dark chocolate contains a very large number of antioxidants – nearly eight times the number found in strawberries.

However, these flavonoids are specific to dark chocolate, as milk chocolate does not contain nearly the same levels of antioxidants – and white chocolate has none at all. According to Mauro Serafini, Ph.D., of Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, the reason dark chocolate has proven to be healthier than milk chocolate, is because the milk in milk chocolate may actually interfere with the absorption of antioxidants, canceling out its positive benefits.

There are two primary reasons that dark chocolate can actually be helpful for those with Hepatitis C: stress relief and blood pressure reduction.

Stress Relief

As a potentially life-threatening disease that has just a 50 percent cure rate, living with chronic Hepatitis C is often associated with stress. Unfortunately, stress increases congestion in the liver and can thus encourage Hepatitis C-inflicted liver damage.

Researchers have found that dark chocolate is a reasonable approach for relieving stress. As published in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research, investigators found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed.

Blood Pressure Reduction

Individuals who have more advanced cases of Hepatitis C may suffer from portal hypertension. When Hepatitis C has caused significant scarring of the liver, the blood pressure in the portal vein (the vein that carries blood from the digestive organs to the liver) rises. People with portal hypertension who also have high blood pressure are more susceptible to catastrophic health events.

Based on research published in the January 2010 edition of the American Journal of Hypertension, dark chocolate has the ability to lower blood pressure. While the ideal formulation and dosage has yet to be identified, experts believe that small amounts of dark chocolate are beneficial to people with hypertension or portal hypertension.

High-quality dark chocolate’s liver benefits are not a prescription to overindulge. Chocolate is still high in calories and fat and, as with most sweets, should be consumed in moderation. A small piece of dark chocolate each day seems appropriate.

By reducing stress and blood pressure, a little bit of dark chocolate can be beneficial to someone with Hepatitis C. Thus, whether you, your valentine or both of you has this virus, February 14th can be celebrated by keeping the chocolate gifting tradition alive.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day, Valentine’s Day, Retrieved February 3, 2010, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 2010.

http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/p/chocolate.htm, Health Benefits of Chocolate, Mark Stibich, PhD, Retrieved February 4, 2010, About.com, 2010.

http://www.integrative-healthcare.org/mt/archives/2006/02/dark_chocolate.html, Dark Chocolate for the Love of Life, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved February 4, 2010, Natural Wellness, 2010.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/170829.php, Dark Chocolate May Improve Metabolic Stress Response Say Nestlé Researchers, Retrieved February 2, 2010, MediLexicon International Ltd, 2010.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910929?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=5, Effect of cocoa products on blood pressure: systematic review and meta-analysis, Desch S, et al, Retrieved February 2, 2010, American Journal of Hypertension, January 2010.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20034049?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=1, Increased caffeine consumption is associated with reduced hepatic fibrosis, Modi AA, et al, Retrieved February 2, 2010, Hepatology, January 2010.

http://www.rxpgnews.com/hepatitis-c-virus/Caffeine_intake_found_to_cause_less_liver_fibrosis_230400.shtml, Caffeine intake in chronic hepatitis C patients associated with less liver fibrosis, Retrieved February 2, 2010, RxPG, January 2010.

http://www.topnews.in/health/it-s-official-dark-chocolate-helps-beat-blues-25854, It’s official: Dark chocolate helps beat the blues, Mohit Joshi, Retrieved February 2, 2010, TopNews.in, January 2010.

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