More evidence that chocolate might be good for you

Created date

October 22nd, 2015

Over the past decade or so, some studies have suggested that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, might have health benefits.

Now, new research seems to support those findings. Two different studies published in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition showed that cocoa flavanols, which are plant-based compounds found in cocoa beans, may help to improve cardiovascular function, especially arterial flexibility.

With age, arteries lose flexibility and are less able to expand to allow for greater blood flow. This stiffness makes the heart work harder to pump blood and thus increases the risk of high blood pressure.

Promising results

In the first study, two groups of healthy young adults (less than age 35) and two groups of healthy older adults (ages 50 to 80) were asked to consume a drink containing cocoa flavanols or a flavanol-free drink twice daily for two weeks. At the end of the study period, researchers found that arterial flexibility was one-third better in the groups that drank flavanols. The second study tested a larger group of participants and had similar results regarding arterial flexibility, and results also showed that the flavanol group had lower blood pressure readings and improved cholesterol profiles.

The researchers say these studies highlight the importance of a diet high in flavanols for cardiovascular health. Flavanols, however, often get destroyed when foods such as chocolate are processed. But chocolate isn’t the only source—these beneficial compounds can also be found in tea, red wine, apples, and dark berries.