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Dark Chocolate Makes Walking Easier For Artery Disease Patients

First Posted: Jul 03, 2014 02:29 AM EDT

A new research found that dark chocolate improves artery flexibility and helps people with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) to walk longer and farther.

For centuries the health benefits of dark chocolate has been touted. It is healthier than milk chocolate.  Adding to the list of health benefits, the new study  claims that people with artery problems in legs can walk easily by consuming dark chocolate that is known to be rich in polyphenols.

"The improvements were modest. Still, the benefit of dark chocolate polyphenols is of potential relevance for the quality of life of these patients," said Lorenzo Loffredo, M.D., the study's co-author.

Peripheral Artery Disease is the narrowing of the peripheral arteries to legs, stomach, arms and head.  While walking, the reduced flow of blood leads to pain, cramping or fatigue, either in legs or hips.

A pilot study included 14 men and 6 women aged between 60-78 years, all were diagnosed with PAD. They were tested on a treadmill in the morning and two hours after eating 40 grams of dark and milk chocolate on separate days. The dark chocolate used in the study had more than 85 percent of cocoa content, due to which it was rich in polyphenols. The milk chocolate had cocoa content less than 30 percent, which means it had less polyphenols.

When compared to the milk chocolate, dark chocolate increased the ability of the participants to walk unassisted. On eating dark chocolate, the participants walked an average 11 percent farther and 15 percent longer than they did on other days. Milk chocolate did not improve the distance and time.

"Other investigations have shown that polyphenols including those in dark chocolate may improve blood vessel function. But this study is extremely preliminary and I think everyone needs to be cautious when interpreting the findings," said Creager, who is director of the Vascular Center at Brigham. "We know from other studies of antioxidants - vitamin C and vitamin E for example -  that these interventions have not gone on to show improvement in cardiovascular health."

The finding was documented in the journal of American Heart Association. 

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