Subjects: Behavioral health
Chocolate is more than an indulgence! It lowers blood pressure and the consequent risk of heart disease–especially dark chocolate–say German scientists who published the heartening news in the European Heart Journal.
The scientists added that just a small square of chocolate per day is enough to reap the cardiovascular benefits…after that, it really is just an indulgence.
To reach these conclusions, Brian Buijsse and colleagues followed 19,357 people between the ages of 35 and 65, for at least 10 years. They found that people in the highest quartile for chocolate consumption (averaging 7.5 grams of chocolate per day), had lower blood pressure, a 27% lower risk of heart attack, and a 48% lower risk of stroke than those in the lowest quartile for chocolate consumption (about 1.7 grams per day).
Buijsse’s team believes it’s the flavanols in cocoa that are responsible for these beneficial effects. There are more flavanols in dark chocolate than milk chocolate.
“Flavanols…are responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels–vascular endothelial cells,” explained Buijsse. “Nitric oxide…causes smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen. This may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function and makes vascular endothelium less attractive for white blood cells to attach and stick around.”
Buijsse warned that people who chose to increase their chocolate intake should not increase their overall caloric intake or their consumption of healthy foods. “Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable,” he told BurrillReport.