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Dark Chocolate Deemed Good for the Heart

Chocolate and Chocolate ShavingsBoth nutritionists and chocolate lovers have long believed that dark chocolate is good for health. Now a new study published in The FASEB Journal suggests that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, the thickening and hardening of the arteries, by restoring flexibility of the arteries and preventing white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls. In other words, dark chocolate is good for the heart.

To assess the effects of dark chocolate on heart health, researchers led by Professor Diederik Esser of the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and the Division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University, both in the Netherlands, recently analyzed 44 overweight men between the ages of 45 and 70 years old.

For two periods of four weeks, the participants consumed either 70 grams of regular dark chocolate each day or 70 grams of specially produced dark chocolate with high levels of flavanol. Flavanol is a beneficial phytonutrient (also known as a plant-based nutrient) found naturally in cocoa. Both chocolates contained similar levels of cocoa.

The participants were additionally asked not to eat other calorie-rich foods to avoid weight gain.

The researchers assessed both whether flavanol content motivated the subjects to eat the chocolate and the vascular health of the participants at the start and end of the study.

Both groups exhibited a one percent decrease in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a one percent decrease in augmentation index (AIX), reduced leukocyte (white blood cell) count, decreased plasma sICAM1 and sICAM3, and a reduced leukocyte adhesion marker expression. All five decreases indicate a reduced risk of atherosclerosis.

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Additionally, although the chocolate high in flavanol stimulated the participants to eat more chocolate, both types of chocolate produced the same heart benefits. In other words, regular dark chocolate is good for the heart.

Comments Dr. Essr, “We provide a more complete picture of the impact of chocolate consumption in vascular health and show that increasing flavanol content has no added beneficial effect on vascular health. However, this increased flavanol content clearly affected taste and thereby the motivation to eat these chocolates. So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one.”

The results of the present study could lead to new therapeutic treatments that provide the same benefits as dark chocolate consumption. In the meanwhile, eating dark chocolate appears to be good for health.

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Another recent study suggests that eating foods with high levels of flavonoids such as chocolate, tea, berries, wine, and herbs may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

References

Dark chocolate consumption improves leukocyte adhesion factors and vascular function in overweight men: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24302679
Dark chocolate ‘good for the heart,’ study suggests: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273374.php
Why dark chocolate is good for your heart: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-02/foas-wdc022714.php

Image Credits

Chocolate and Chocolate Shavings: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1265013

Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

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