Ongoing research shows that eating dark chocolate exerts beneficial effects throughout the whole body. High quality chocolate delivers disease-zapping antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and protects your heart and liver, all in one fell crunch.
Chemistry Central Journal brings even more good news for chocolate lovers, stating that dark chocolate contains more flavanols and polyphenols than fruit juice. "Cacao seeds are a 'Super Fruit' providing nutritive value beyond that of their macronutrient composition," said Dr Debra Miller.
Chocolate and Blood Pressure
The important thing is that the antioxidants in dark chocolate can significantly reduce blood pressure in patients with hypertension. According to researchers from the University of Adelaide, flavanols promote vasodilation, which may consequently lower blood pressure.
"There have, however, been conflicting results as to the real-life effects of eating chocolate. We've found that consumption can significantly, albeit modestly, reduce blood pressure for people with high blood pressure but not for people with normal blood pressure." added Dr Karin Ried, who is program manager and research fellow of the PHCRED (Primary Health Care Research Evaluation & Development) program at The University of Adelaide. The analysis concluded that the pressure reduction caused by chocolate consumption was comparable to the effects of 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
Chocolate and Cirrhosis
There are also potential benefits for liver disease patients. Spanish scientists found that eating dark chocolate lowers blood pressure in the liver and reduces damage to the blood vessels of patients with cirrhosis.
A study which was presented at the International Liver Congress 2010 divided 21 cirrhotic patients with end stage liver disease into two groups. The first group received liquid meal containing dark chocolate, while the participants in the second group were getting liquid meal with white chocolate devoid of anti-oxidant properties. As a result, the patients receiving dark chocolate experienced a noticeable reduction of post-prandial increase in blood pressure in the liver.
One Square Is Enough
However, it is not necessary to eat huge quantities of chocolate in order to experience all the health benefits. In fact, just one small square a day may be enough to experience the health benefits chocolate is offering. A study performed in Germany that compared 19 357 individuals found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate (an average of 7.5 grams a day) were at a 39% lower risk of developing a heart attack than people with the lowest (1.7 grams) chocolate intakes.
To put things into perspective, the six grams of difference are the equivalent of one small square of a typical 100g chocolate bar.
"Our hypothesis was that because chocolate appears to have a pronounced effect on blood pressure, therefore chocolate consumption would lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks," explains Dr Brian Buijsse from the German Institute of Human Nutrition, who led the research. "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."
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