Dark chocolate may help prevent cardiovascular disease

April 26, 2012

A study presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, Calif., shows that dark chocolate may help protect against the risk of cardiovascular disease. Many studies have shown that chocolate is a good source of flavanols—compounds known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Many large-scale human studies have documented a statistical correlation between flavanol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease. However, few controlled human intervention studies have been conducted to test the direct effect of chocolate consumption on variables such as chronic inflammation, blood vessel health, and circulating lipid levels.

In this prospective, controlled human intervention study, 31 subjects were assigned randomly to consume either a daily serving (50 g) of either regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate (70% cocoa) that had been overheated or “bloomed,” or white chocolate (0% cocoa). The subjects were asked to consume the chocolate for 15 days. Blood pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid profiles, and blood glucose levels were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.

When compared to participants assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming either form of dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels coupled with higher HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol). The researchers concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving glucose levels and lipid profiles. However, they cautioned that while habitual dark chocolate consumption may benefit one’s health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, it must be eaten in moderation because it can easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories. The researchers are planning follow-up studies involving more subjects and a longer duration of chocolate consumption.