From Dr. Mercola's Website

Does Eating Chocolate Help You Stay Healthy?

Small daily doses of flavonoid-rich dark chocolate eaten over a two-week period have been found to help the blood vessels to better dilate, according to a recent study. Scientists targeted epicatechin, a specific flavonoid that was absorbed at high levels in the blood, to be particularly beneficial in blood vessel functions. Researchers believe elevated levels of epicatechin trigger the release of active substances that increase blood flow through arteries and improve heart health.

The beneficial effects of chocolate have been shown previously to improve the inner lining of blood vessels after a single use or several uses over a few days.

Flavonoids, chemical compounds with antioxidant properties found in a variety of plants, have been shown to promote a number of cardiovascular benefits, including decreasing bad LDL cholesterol as well as the bodyís inflammatory immune responses and inhibiting the aggregation of blood platelets that contribute to blood clots that produce heart attacks and strokes.

During the double-blind study, 11 of 21 patients received 1.6 ounces of flavonoid-rich chocolate everyday for two weeks. The rest ate chocolate with low flavonoid content.

At the end of the trial, those who ate flavonoid-rich chocolate had a better reading of flow-mediated dilation, a marker for determining heart disease risks, than those who didnít. Researchers also determined concentrations of the cocoa flavonoid epicatechin rose significantly in blood samples taken from those who received high-flavonoid chocolate too.

Interestingly, the blood cholesterol levels in study participants didnít increase either.

Scientists have developed better ways of detecting flavonoids over the last five years. Dark chocolate has been found to have more flavonoids than any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine and black and green teas.

Researchers say most consumers donít understand chocolate is derived from plants, as are fruits and vegetables.

Because the standard manufacturing of chocolate eliminates as much as half of its flavonoids, some firms have lowered heat and alkalization that preserves up to 95 percent of chocolate flavonoids. The study also suggested eating chocolate with at least a 70 percent cocoa content, in moderation, can be beneficial in conjunction with exercise and a healthy diet.


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