Dark chocolate is good for you - and in a new study scientists have revealed why.
The study published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal states that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.
The study also revealed that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect.
For the study, 44 middle-aged overweight men were studied over two periods of four weeks. They received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced both with a similar cocoa mass content - and consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day.
Researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health before and after both intervention periods. They also evaluated the sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and regular chocolate and collected the motivation scores of the participants to eat these chocolates. The participants were also advised to refrain from certain energy-dense food products to prevent weight gain.
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 heath, said Diederik Esser, Ph.D., and researcher from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition in Wageningen, The Netherlands. 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.
A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal summarized that daily consumption of dark chocolate can reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes in people with metabolic syndrome. The authors stressed that only non-fatal stroke and non-fatal heart attack were assessed in their analysis and the potential effects on other cardiovascular events such as heart failure had yet to be tested. They also stressed that these protective efforts had only been shown for dark chocolate at least 60 to 70% cocoa rather than for milk or white chocolate. This was probably due to the higher levels of flavonoids found in dark chocolate.
They concluded that the blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering effects of plain dark chocolate could represent an effective and cost-effective strategy for people with metabolic syndrome and no diabetes.