I came across some good news if you like chocolate like me, or suffer from low back pain like me (though I don’t really suffer – just have low grade discomfort that doesn’t slow me down). We’ve talked about the health benefits of chocolate and have discussed low back pain in the past.
Chocolate and Cardiovascular Benefits
It’s been known that chocolate has cardiovascular benefits. But a recent study published in FABER provides sheds more light on why chocolate is linked to cardiovascular health. Chocolate improves arterial wall stiffness by improving endothelial cell function – all of which improves blood flow. But, this recent study showed that dark chocolate also lowers leukocyte counts (white blood cells) and makes them less likely to stick to arterial walls. White blood cells are markers of inflammation and inflammation may be the most important factor that leads to heart and other chronic disease. So it looks like dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties.
Dark chocolate is also rich in flavonoids which are potent antioxidants that fight free radicals that contribute to aging and chronic disease.
Keep in the mind the results reported in this recent study were based on the consumption of 70 grams of dark chocolate daily. There are cocoa extracts available as food supplements that you can buy. One of them is Cocoa Via by Mars. Don’t be surprised if a pharmaceutical company goes through the FDA approval process to market a cocoa extract as a prescription medicine. That’s the word on the street.
Stem Cells and Low Back Pain
About 80% of us will develop low back sometime in our lives. Most chronic low back conditions are related to damaged intervertebral discs – the “shock absorbers” between the vertebrate – know as discogenic low back pain. One area that I think stem cells may have quick and successful human application is in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis and spinal conditions.
A phase II clinical trial conducted at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center showed that a single injection of stem cells reduced disc related low back pain. Bone marrow stem cells were used and the average pain reduction was 50% in patients diagnosed with moderate to severe discogenic low back pain. Earlier studies showed the bone marrow stem cells were able to repair and restore disc structure. Unless the disc can actually be repaired and restored discogenic low back pain is typically a progressive condition and can severely dampen quality of life.
This is all hopeful as low back pain can be expensive to treat not only in terms of medical costs, but is also a leading cause of disability and time off work.