The National Confectioners Association (NCA) reports chocolate is America’s favorite candy for Halloween this year. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates $2.08 billion will be spent on Halloween candy this year; as per NCA, 72 percent of this will be some type of chocolate. Fortunately for Americans, chocolate has some properties that are actually beneficial for the teeth, gums, and cardiovascular health.

Chocolate is derived from the cocoa bean. Dark chocolates containing at least 70 percent cocoa extract are filled with many components that benefit the teeth and overall health as reported by Tufts University, School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Flavonoid is one positive element of the cocoa bean. It is an antioxidant that helps hinder the progression of tooth decay as well as promoting cardiovascular health. Flavonols neutralize the acids produced by bacteria, thus preventing tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Cocoa extract also contains an alkaloid called theobromine. Arman Sadeghpour, PhD of Tulane University and scientists from the University of New Orleans and Louisiana University’s School of Dentistry, conducted studies that found theobromine helps harden tooth enamel. As the enamel is strengthened, it is less venerable to decay. Still Sadeghpour emphasizes that even the highest quality of dark chocolates contain only 3 percent theobromine, which is outweighed by the high sugar content. Since most chocolates are enhanced with sugars and dairy, the recommended maximum consumption of dark chocolate is 3 ounces per day.

Over the last decade, chocolate has been found to be a super food filled with more than 300 compounds. Many of its components have known health benefits, but the potency within the amount consumed may not be enough to show efficacy. It is important to note that the cocoa content must be at least 70 percent of the chocolate in order for any properties to be effective. Although beneficial, and like all other sweet pleasures, consumption should be in moderation.

• Dr. Rashmi (Rush) Bhatnagar, DMD, MPH, can be contacted at (480) 598-5900 or visit www.BellaVistaDentalCare.com.

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