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Phuket Health: Doctor’s orders – eat dark chocolate

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Health: Doctor’s orders – eat dark chocolate | The Thaiger



PHUKET: Scientists have known for a long time about the protective effects of this “magic food” on atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

I call it “magic food” because the full official name of the main component in dark chocolate is Theobroma Cocoa or “Food of God” – from the Greek words theo (God) and broma (drink).

Supposedly, cocoa has been considered for a long time beneficial for its effects on improving heart function, protecting against coronary artery disease, reducing insulin resistance, lowering blood pressure, and much more. The theory behind the serendipity of dark chocolate is its bioactive flavonoid substances – particularly their subclass, the flavanol compounds.

This food has a long history. The cocoa drink is one of the common beverages among a particular tribe in Panama. The Kuna Indians, islanders near the Panama Canal, habitually drink more than 4 to 5 cups of “unprocessed” cocoa every day. Surprisingly, most of the Kuna Indians have never had hypertension or cardiovascular disease.

However, when some of them migrated to Panama City, there were higher incidences of hypertension. This indicates that the normal blood pressure in this specific population should not be the result of their strong genetics per se, but the relevant lifestyles and environments instead. This fact underscores the importance of the “unprocessed” natural cocoa as a health food.

The above finding triggered some researchers to delve more into what is behind the chocolate serendipity. A lot of evidence points to a group of substances called flavanols. In fact, the cardiovascular protective effect of a dark chocolate bar depends on how many flavanol compounds are within that bar. This means that just the darkness of chocolate should not automatically imply it has cardio protective properties.

Without enough flavanol content, eating the seemingly dark chocolate is futile for your health. Also, it is possible that cocoa may lose many of its flavanols during the manufacturing process before becoming commercial chocolate bars – the ones which contain sugar and milk in addition to just cocoa. Actually, it is the difference between the processed and unprocessed natural cocoa that renders the commercial chocolate less beneficial to cardiovascular health.

But what are these “magic” flavanol compounds?

Flavanols are a subset of a larger family of substances called flavonoids, which can be found in many “healthy-heart” beverages such as tea and red wine. It is these flavanol compounds that give chocolate a bitter taste – which is why most manufacturers try to process natural cocoa into a sweet confection that virtually destroys these compounds.

Flavanol rich compounds exert their effects via the mechanism involving nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide has long been known for its strong anti-atherosclerotic activity on the vascular wall. One of the main actions of nitric oxide is to prevent platelet aggregation and vascular endothelial dysfunction – the precondition for atherosclerotic development.

Therefore, in theory, dark chocolate, which is high in flavanol compounds, should mitigate atherosclerotic cardiovascular risks by reducing oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system.

Actual clinical benefits of flavonoids are mundane and have been published for more than two decades. In 2008, cardiovascular research found protective effects of cocoa on cardiovascular disease through antioxidant mechanisms and inhibitory action against thrombin on the vascular wall. One study showed dark chocolate improves coronary
vascular functions, increases the diameter of coronary arteries and reduces platelet aggregation via its antioxidant properties.

Abnormal platelet function is a hallmark of atherosclerotic disease – inhibiting it will decrease the chances of atheromatous plaque development.

There are many studies that support a blood pressure lowering effect of dark chocolate, which could be potentially applicable for extensive prevention and management programs for hypertensive populations.

Moreover, many research results also suggest beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity, lipid abnormality and brain perfusion. All of these studies play an important role in confirming the effectiveness of eating dark chocolate for cardiovascular health.

A mere percentage of high cocoa content, say more than 50 per cent, has nothing to do with the actual amount of flavanols at all. One should not rely only on the cocoa percentage in the chocolate for its cardiovascular preventive effects. We need to stress more the percentage of the actual compounds – the flavanols. In particular, the Kuna Indians living in Panama City who consume commercial chocolate have a normal incidence of hypertension similar to other populations around the globe – in stark contrast to those who continue to consume natural cocoa with Its extraordinarily high flavanols.

Unfortunately, most commercial chocolate products do not reveal the actual flavanol contents on their packages.

Most up-to-date studies do not specify anything about the exact flavanol content in their clinical trials.

Lack of well-controlled clinical and experimental data undermine the justification of consuming dark chocolate as a standard public health policy.

More in-depth and strictly controlled studies are needed to better define the potential of this divine food.

Dr.Sanya Thiengburanatham is an experienced academic and cardiovascular & thoracic surgeon. Currently, he works at Bangkok Hospital Phuket. He can be contacted at sanya_theing@yahoo.com.

— Dr Sanya Thiengburanatham

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Business

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg

May Taylor

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Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | The Thaiger

Thai Residents reports that on Sunday, Bloomberg published an article on the world’s best pension systems, using information gathered from the 2019 Melbourne Mercer Global Pensions Index.

The survey looked at the pension systems of 37 countries with metrics including employee rights, savings, the number of homeowners, growth of assets, and growth of the economy. The purpose of the analysis was to determine what was needed to improve state pension systems and to gauge the level of confidence citizens had in their state pension system.

The Netherlands and Denmark were found to have the world’s best state pensions, with Australia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile next. Out of all 37 countries, Thailand finished last, with what the report described as an extremely ineffective and ambiguous system.

“Thailand was in the bottom slot and should introduce a minimum level of mandatory retirement savings and increase support for the poorest.”

Out of 37 countries, Thailand has the worst pension system, says Bloomberg | News by The Thaiger

Photo: WorkpointNews

Thai Residents states that only those employed within the government system in Thailand are eligible for a pension based on salary. For most Thai citizens, pension amounts vary from 600 baht to 1,000 baht a month, depending on the recipient’s age.

A report carried out by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) advises Thai citizens to have at least 4 million baht saved by the time they retire, but Thai Residents reports that 60% of Thai retirees have less than 1 million baht in savings, with one in three citizens who have reached retirement age are forced to continue working in order to survive.

SOURCE: thairesidents.com

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Bangkok

Tax on salt content being considered

Greeley Pulitzer

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Tax on salt content being considered | The Thaiger

The Excise Department is considering imposing a tax on the salt content of food to encourage food producers to reduce the sodium content of snacks, instant noodles and seasoning cubes.

The director of the Office of Tax Planning said that the department is discussing a limit on the amount of sodium food can contain, in line with the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is 2,000 milligrams of salt per day.

In reality, Thai people consume an average of 1,000 milligrams per meal, making their daily intake well above WHO guidelines, according to the director.

He said any tax imposed would be at a level which would encourage food producers to reduce the sodium in their processed food without being punitive, adding that the proposal isn’t intended to generate more tax revenue, but to help protect the health of consumers. Excessive sodium in the diet can lead to high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Fish sauce, soy sauce and salt would not be taxed.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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News

Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces

Greeley Pulitzer

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Water shortage warnings in 22 provinces | The Thaiger

People living in 22 Thai provinces are being warned to prepare for shortages of drinking water during the upcoming dry season, due to start on November 1st.

The warning was issued by the National Water Resources Office, citing low levels in reservoirs, which are the main sources for tap water production waterworks in 22 provinces.

Areas at risk identified by the office are in northern, north-eastern, eastern and southern provinces.

Measures have been adopted by agencies charged with dealing with water shortages. including dredging water channels to allow greater volumes of water to flow into reservoirs, drilling underground wells, enlarging storage ponds and the purchase of water to supply to those in urgent need.

The Royal Irrigation Department has announced that people should use water sparingly.

There are currently about 6 billion cubic metres of usable water in reservoirs in the affected provinces, with 5 billion cubic metres reserved for consumption and ecological preservation, leaving only 1 billion cubic metres for use in agriculture.

This means farmers in the Chao Phraya river basin may not be able to grow a second crop of rice this year.

SOURCE: thaipbsworld.com

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