Dark Chocolate Helps Boost Vascular Health

There is more good news for dark chocolate lovers. New research published in the FASEB Journal suggests eating dark chocolate lowers a key vascular health predictor, known as the augmentation index, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall.

WAGENINGEN, The NetherlandsThere is more good news for dark chocolate lovers. New research published in the FASEB Journal suggests eating dark chocolate lowers a key vascular health predictor, known as the augmentation index, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall.

Researchers at the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University found dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries, while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels. Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis. The researchers also found increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect.

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 Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, division of Human Nutrition in Wageningen. 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 the study, the researchers investigated whether consumption of regular dark chocolate also affects other markers of endothelial health, and whether chocolate enrichment with flavanols has additional benefits. They analyzed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grams of chocolate per day. Study participants received either specially produced dark chocolate with high flavanol content or chocolate that was regularly produced. Both chocolates had a similar cocoa mass content. Before and after both intervention periods, researchers performed a variety of measurements that are important indicators of vascular health. During the study, participants were advised to refrain from certain high-calorie foods to prevent weight gain. 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.

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, well just have to make do with what nature has given us."

A study published last year in the Journal of Nutrition also supported chocolates health benefits. It found higher chocolate consumption has been associated with lower levels of total fatfat deposits all over the bodyand abdominal fat, independent of physical activity levels and diet.

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