In some good news for chocoholics, scientists have found that eating dark chocolate may ward off atherosclerosis by making arteries more elastic and preventing white blood vessels from sticking to their walls.
New research suggests that consumption of dark chocolate lowers the augmentation index, a key vascular health predictor, and reduces adhesion of white blood cells to the vessel wall.
Dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels, researchers have found.
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Both arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion are known factors that play a significant role in atherosclerosis.
Scientists also found that increasing the flavanol content of dark chocolate did not change this effect.
“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 from the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and Wageningen University, 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,” said Esser.
Esser and colleagues analysed 44 middle-aged overweight men over two periods of four weeks as they consumed 70 grammes 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 study was published in The FASEB Journal.