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Dark Chocolate Helps Restore Flexibility to Arteries

First Posted: Feb 27, 2014 10:54 AM EST
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Unfortunately, most of our favorite desserts aren't too good for our health. Yet a recent study shows that dark chocolate is good for our heart.

The way it works, according to researchers from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition in Wageningen, in the Netherlands, is that dark chocolate can actually restore the flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. This arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known to create a significant role in atherosclerosis . 

"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," said Diederik Esser, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the university, via a press release. "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."

For their study, researchers analyzed 44 middle-aged overweight men for two, four week periods as they consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day. Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol chocolate or regularly produced chocolate, both containing the same cocoa mass content. However, before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that worked as important indicators for vascular health. For instance, participants were asked to refrain from certain energy dense food products in order to prevent weight gain, while they were also evaluated based on certain sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and regular chocolate that's collected for motivation scores of the participants to eat during the intervention periods.

"The effect that dark chocolate has on our bodies is encouraging not only because it allows us to indulge with less guilt, but also because it could lead the way to therapies that do the same thing as dark chocolate but with better and more consistent results," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Until the 'dark chocolate drug' is developed, however, we'll just have to make do with what nature has given us!"

What do you think?

More information regarding the study can be found via The FASEB Journal

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