Impressive athleticism was on display during the Winter Olympics, but being at the top of one’s game doesn’t necessarily protect against digestive distress resulting from exercise. Surprisingly, some people are adding cocoa to their diets to reduce these symptoms. Now, researchers in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry report that long-term daily consumption of cocoa doesn’t appear to improve exercise-related digestive issues in male athletes and induces only minimal changes to their gut microbiomes.
Performing vigorous or intense exercise can cause digestive upset for some people. The symptoms can include nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. In the worst cases, symptoms are so bad that athletes stop what they’re doing and drop out of competitions. Previous studies have suggested that long-term cocoa consumption could alleviate these issues because of the tasty substance’s high level of flavonoids. These compounds can enhance antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and have been shown to have prebiotic effects on beneficial gut microbes in animal studies. However, chronic consumption of cocoa powder by humans to reduce exercise-related digestive problems hasn’t been investigated in a standardized way. So, François Fenaille, Mar Larrosa, and colleagues wanted to develop a highly controlled but also realistic human trial to assess whether cocoa could help.
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