Arthritis is a term that refers to a host of conditions that cause inflammation and pain in the joints. Two of the more common types include osteoarthritis, which is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage between the joints, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes severe inflammation in the joints. Approximately 28 million Americans have either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation. One of the components of chocolate may relieve some arthritis symptoms.
Arthritis and the Inflammatory Process
Inflammation occurs in the joints due to the damage associated with cartilage breakdown or from the immune system attacking the thin membrane that lines the joints, causing a buildup of fluid and inflammation. Symptoms vary from person to person but may include swelling, pain or a decreased range of motion in the affected joints. Depending on the type of arthritis, inflammation may not be limited to the joint itself. It can affect the body as a whole, which can lead to systemic side effects like fatigue and a decreased appetite.
Medications can treat symptoms and relieve inflammation, and lifestyle changes can also provide some relief. Regular consumption of foods that have anti-inflammatory properties may help in reducing some of the inflammation that arthritis causes. These types of foods include fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, cocoa powder and spices such as ginger and turmeric.
Nutritional Composition of Chocolate
Cocoa powder, which is used to make chocolate, is an abundant source of phytochemicals, which are plant chemicals that enhance health in a variety of ways. Dark chocolate contains a higher amount of phytochemicals than milk or white chocolate do. Phytochemical content also depends upon the type and percentage of cocoa powder used when making chocolate.
Chocolate and Arthritis
Phytochemicals have been linked to reducing inflammation in the body. Regular consumption of phytochemicals may reduce the severity of symptoms associated with chronic disease, such as arthritis. The key is consuming foods with a high cocoa content, ideally 70 percent or higher. Chocolate is an energy-dense food and could easily contribute to weight gain if you overconsume it. Enjoy the health benefits of chocolate in moderation.
Is This an Emergency?
- Arthritis Foundation; Rheumatoid Arthritis; 2011
- Cleveland Clinic; Anti-inflammatory Diet; 2009
- "Antioxidants & Redox Signaling"; Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease; D.L. Katz, et al.; June 2011
- "Today's Dietitian"; 5 Fuarticlenctional Foods and Why They Work for Women; Victoria Shanta-Retelny, R.D., L.D.; November 2005