A new study presented on Sunday, March 15, 2015, at the American College of Cardiology's 64th Annual Scientific Session, “Effects of Dark Chocolate (DC) on Exercise Capacity in Sedentary Older Adults (A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial)," suggests eating dark chocolate could help improve energy levels, raise exercise stamina and improve other measures of heart health in sedentary older adults.
According to the study's lead author, Pam Taub, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego Health System, this study, conducted with funding from the Hershey Co., is the first to evaluate the effects of dark chocolate at a biochemical and mechanistic level in sedentary older adults.
The researchers analyzed blood samples, exercise endurance tests and skeletal muscle biopsies of 17 volunteers before and after a three-month period in which participants were randomly assigned to eat either a small amount of dark chocolate or a placebo daily in a double blind, placebo-controlled setting.
Subjects given dark chocolate showed improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and increased proteins associated with metabolism and energy production. Exercise testing indicated these volunteers also had a higher capacity for exercise and more efficient energy production in their muscle cells.
Taub said the results suggest dark chocolate could be an inexpensive and beneficial treatment for older people who are unable to exercise due to disabilities or mobility limitations. Future research could help elucidate other physiological effects of dark chocolate and epicatechin, the component thought to be responsible for its health effects.
Well this is good news if I’ve ever heard it. This isn’t the first bit of science-based news about chocolate (many studies already support its role in heart health and even vascular health); however, as Taub pointed out, it is the first study to examine chocolate at a biochemical and mechanistic level in sedentary older adults. There is opportunity there for food and beverage formulators that are creating foods geared toward seniors. But this doesn’t mean your average chocolate lovers can’t reap these benefits as well; the snack bar industry is beginning to create bars specific for heart health and what better ingredient to include than chocolate? And with research in exercise stamina and energy, sport nutrition-aimed foods and beverages can benefit from this study's findings, too. Chocolate is so much more than just a sweet indulgence.