Why dark chocolate is good for your heart

Dark chocolate lowers the augmentation index, a key vascular health predictor, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall

It might seem too good to be true, but dark chocolate is good for you and scientists now know why. 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. What’s more, the scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect. This discovery was published in the March 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal.

“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, The Netherlands. “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.”

To make this discovery, Esser and colleagues 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 energy dense food products 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, we’ll just have to make do with what nature has given us!”

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.

7 thoughts on “Why dark chocolate is good for your heart”

  1. Dark chocolate is also good for the brain, it increases blood flow to the brain as well as to the heart, so it can help improve cognitive function. Dark chocolate also helps reduce risk of stroke.

    Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help free the body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells. Free radicals are implicated in the aging process and may be a cause of cancer, so eating antioxidant rich foods like dark chocolate can protect individual from many types of cancer and slow the signs of aging.

    The daily intake of dark chocolate should be kept to about 100 calories per day, so it can be effective and play important role in the body.

    • Rethabile(12103102) ; When you talk about “dark Chocolate” of course you have to talk all the ingredients in the dark chocolate ` “coco powder” is the beneficial ingredient ` BUT we are talking `dark chocolate ` with very high and harmful `saturated fat content as a food source ` particularly and specifically very high saturated Stearic acid content , I had posted the specific side effects as well as references of Stearic acid inside the hard Chocolates regarding `blood vessel clotting/blocking ` as well as `atherosclerotic` side effects ; these are specifically well documented “the fibrinogen –clotting factor- increase” and as a result increased incidences of Stroke as well as Heart attacks . If you really want the benefits of Coco powder , you better use it as is –Coco powder- rather than Hard Chocolate form food with harmful high saturated fat particularly stearic acid as added ingredient in it ..

  2. Although milk chocolate sometimes contain fewer calories the general amount of calories contained in milk chocolate and dark chocolate doesn’t differ with a big amount. But dark chocolate does contain fewer carbohydrates. Depending on the cocoa amount of the dark chocolate the carb ratio ranges from 8 – 35 per 100 grams.

    The fat in chocolate comes from cocoa butter and is made up out of oleic, stearic and palmitic acid. Research shows that stearic acid has a neutral effect on cholesterol, it doesn’t make it lower or higher. Palmitic acid does effect cholesterol but it makes out 1/3 of the fat calories, so if eaten in moderation it will not cause negative health effects.

    Taking Mentin Gunduz’s comment in account the basic ingredients for dark chocolate might be healthier than those of milk chocolate but we should consider what other ingredients companies add as well.

    • Well in reality the facts are more complicated than purely Cholesterol measurement ; the “Stearic acid” increases the plasma levels of Fibrinogen – proven over whopping 22 different studies without any reasonable doubt (* ) – (The fibrinogen is like Cholesterol another important independent additional risk factor for Coronary disease) , Fibrinogen is primary clotting cascade factor , in other words if you increase the blood levels of fibrinogen with high intake of saturated Stearic acids no doubt you also increase the `intravascular clot formation at the areas of atheroma inside the blood vessels ` Stearic acid considered inflammatory (inflammation causing agent) In fact study already published to check the levels of Fibrinogen in order to predict the risk of Stroke and Heart attack (** )
      ( * ) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/6/969.full ( Stearic acid and Fibrinogen )
      ( ** )http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/19/6/1368.abstract?ijkey=766dd9542e7b7ede1ec0000fb423261a1cdf7d4a&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha (Fibrinogen as a risk factor for Stroke and Heart Attack )

      So the punch line is ; stick with unsaturated fats no matter what , until somehow manufacturers of Hard Chocolate eventually learn how to eliminate `saturated fats from hard chocolate` may be using different ` mixing agent to harden` the Pure Coco Powder , it is well advised to stay away from high saturated fats as much as possible in order to stay healthy .
      Bottom line is ; the whole package of ingredients inside the hard chocolate is more important than just picking and individual ingredient- like Coco powder – and ignoring the rest of the potentially proven harmful ingredients like – saturated fats – as well as stearic acid and the palmitic acid – in them .
      Metin Gunduz,M.D. ABEM

    • c/o Monique Delport
      Somehow “the link” I gave at my earlier posting for the literature , regarding harmful `Fibrinogen increase with the ` –Stearic acid “ a saturated fat inside Hard Chocolate” ( * ) – did not highlighted as a valid link (I posted another link (**)
      Stearic acid –a saturated fat – inside Dark Chocolate increases blood levels of `Fibrinogen` which is `independent risk factor` in addition to Cholesterol for hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis ).
      The whole literature .pdf regarding `Fibrinogen` and Measuring Plasma Fibrinogen to Predict Stroke and Myocardial Infarction at the link below **
      ( * ) http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/6/969.full ( Stearic acid and Fibrinogen )
      ( ** )http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/19/6/1368.long
      Metin Gunduz,M.D. ABEM

  3. Well ; the problem with the Hard Chocolate comes with `Very high saturated fat` content .For example, a 40g serving (4-7 squares) of dark chocolate that’s 85 per cent cocoa has 227 calories and 12g saturated fat ; in other words % 30 saturated fat .
    It is not the Cocoa powder content important but but the `saturated fat they put in to make the Chocolate . That is `Definitely harmful for your vessels ` no question about it so much research is done and saturated fats – hydrogenated `trans fats` – and their harmful effects for health . Unless of course you separate the Cocoa powder from the saturated fat , like –cocoa powder mixed with other healthier ingredients other than `saturated fat` than we can start making any sense for the health benefits of cocoa powder .
    Pure cocoa powder contains hardly any saturated fat at all, less than 2% and can be used as a good substitute in baking BUT One hundred grams of pure `baking chocolate` will provide 32g saturated fat . Chocolate bars generally has % 9-15 saturated fats again it means too much saturated fat .

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