Does Dark Chocolate Really Help Your Heart? A HealthCentral Explainer
Over the years, we've heard countless claims regarding dark chocolate consumption and how it can promote better heart health. Personally, I'm always happy to hear about any new research that supports premise and am pleased to report that scientists at San Diego State University decided to give chocolate another look...and, the results are promising.
Why do scientists spend time researching chocolate?
Well, because chocolate has been part of the human diet for a long time - something like 4,000 years. And we like it - a lot. It's estimated that Americans consume over 10 pounds of chocolate a year, with most of the chocolate-eating happening on the West Coast. People are going to eat chocolate so it's worth determining once and for all, if it's good for them.
Haven't studies like this already been done?
Yes and no. Researchers have conducted several large-scale human studies and documented a statistical correlation between flavonol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease. There have also been animal studies that suggest flavanols have a physiological effect on chronic inflammation, blood vessel health, and circulating lipid levels. However, few controlled human intervention studies have been conducted to test the direct effect of chocolate consumption on these variables.
What did this study test specifically?
Researchers at San Diego State University hypothesized that dark chocolate, which contains higher levels of flavanols than milk chocolate, has a direct effect on cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure, blood flow, and improving cholesterol levels. In conducting this study, 31 people were asked to consume 50 grams of either regular dark chocolate (70% cocoa), dark chocolate that had been overheated or "bloomed" (70% cocoa), or white chocolate (0% cocoa) for 15 days. The participants also underwent cholesterol testing, blood pressure testing, and glucose testing before and after the study.
What did they find?
The study confirms that dark chocolate definitely has beneficial effects on cardiovascular health. Compared to those in the white chocolate control group, the dark chocolate eaters saw lower blood glucose levels, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, and higher HDL (good cholesterol) levels after the 15-day experiment.
The bottom line?
While the study confirms the benefits of eating dark chocolate in moderation, don't go overboard. The key word is "moderation." Overeating dark chocolate can result in an excess of saturated fat and calories - and then you'll have a whole other problem on your hands.
Newswise. (2012, April 17April). Retrieved from http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/588174