Time for some dark chocolate indulgence

Eating dark chocolate is good for health (Photo: Boz Bros)

Eating dark chocolate can be good for your health (Photo: Boz Bros)

No surprise here, it has been known for quite some time that consuming dark chocolate can improve your health. Mind you, I am not talking about binge eating, but a decent although slightly restrained consumption. Previous research has linked chocolate consumption to many health benefits. One study has suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day may prevent memory decline, while another study found that eating moderate amounts of chocolate could reduce the risk of stroke.

Just in are new results from a further study of dark chocolate consumption. It seems to be a popular topic creating lots of publicity. And this time it is not results from another correlation study of epidemiological findings or an animal study, but results from a real trial on real people. It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is actually good for you and scientists managed to find out why.

Study design

The scientists selected 44 middle-aged overweight men for the trial. Over two periods of four weeks, the men were required to eat either 70 g of regular dark chocolate each day or 70 g of specially produced dark chocolate with high levels of flavanols – naturally occurring antioxidants found in some plants, including the cocoa plant. Both chocolates were similar in their cocoa content.

Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health. Scientists also evaluated the sensory properties of the high flavanol chocolate and the regular chocolate and collected the motivation scores of the participants to eat these chocolates during the intervention. As if that would be needed.

During the study, participants were advised to refrain from certain energy dense food products to prevent further weight gain. Too much chocolate can be fattening and they were already quite corpulent.

The findings of the trial

In the randomised double-blind crossover study, the scientists found that eating dark chocolate lowered the augmentation index, a key vascular health predictor, and reduced leukocyte adhesion marker expression.

Hrmm, all fine then, but what does it all mean? And here is the good news. Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. That’s huge news when it comes to heart health; both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis – thickening and hardening of the arteries.

Scientists destroying dark chocolate indulgence (Photo: Military Health)

Scientists replacing dark chocolate indulgence with pill (Photo: Military Health)

What’s more, the researchers found that although the chocolate higher in flavanols increased sensory stimulation in participants, both types of chocolate produced the same heart benefits. That’s a challenge to previous research that has suggested that the health benefits from consuming chocolate, wine and berries are due to their flavanol content.

Eat dark chocolate while you can

So the dark side of chocolate is a healthy one. But typical for scientists they said that 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. So they still want to deprive us of chocolate indulgence despite its beneficial effect.

Until the dark chocolate drug is developed, eat while there still is time!

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