Older overweight men who consume dark chocolate every day
may reduce their risk cardiovascular disease as a result of the effects of dark
chocolate to reduce arterial stress and inflammation. These findings are
reported in a collaborative study from Dutch and Scottish investigators in this
month’s issue of the medical journal of the Federation of the American Society
of Experimental Biology.
In the randomized, double-blind study, 44 overweight men
between the ages of 45 and 70 were given either 70 grams (the equivalent of a
mini-chocolate bar or a chocolate button) of dark chocolate enriched with
flavonoids or regular, natural chocolate with normal flavonoid content. Over a
4 week period, the men were periodically evaluated for parameters of the
stiffness of their arteries and blood inflammation. Consuming either form of
chocolate significantly increased arterial blood flow, reduced arterial stiffness
and reduced blood inflammation. Dark chocolate enriched with flavonoids
especially reduced arterial inflammatory markers and also tasted better than
Chocolate is made from cocoa. Natural chocolate is high in the
antioxidant polyphenols called flavonoids. Flavonoids are naturally occurring
plant pigments, known to have a whole host of beneficial health effects. Among
their most important beneficial effects are as natural antioxidants and
anti-inflammatory substances that retard cholesterol plaque growth inside blood
vessels. It is this type of plaque that can lead to arterial narrowing, which
can then lead to heart attacks and strokes.
In many commercial forms the cocoa used to make chocolate is
alkalinized to reduce its bitterness. Unfortunately, this process also removes
the flavonoids. Furthermore, processed chocolate also has sugars and saturated
fats added to it to enhance flavor, but further reducing its nutritional value.
Thus, processed chocolate, of the type found in most candy bars is high in fat,
sugar and almost completely devoid of healthy flavonoids.
On the other hand, natural chocolate has been previously shown to
have health benefits. Eating modest amounts of natural chocolate has been shown
to reduce the risk of heart disease and to improve survival after a heart
attack. Other previous studies have shown natural chocolate also improves
arterial blood flow. The current study not only demonstrated improved blood
flow, but also showed chocolate reduced measures of blood and arterial inflammation.
Dark chocolate found in cocoa powders, unsweetened baking
chocolate and dark chocolate squares without added sugar are the least likely
to be alkalinized. Always select this type of chocolate to both make the most
of the health benefits and satisfy your chocolate craving. Because of the
caloric content, restrict your intake to no more than 20 g, or about 2 squares
To learn more about prevention, treatment and reversal of
heart disease, get the book Don’t Let
Your Heart Attack!, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.