It's already been established that dark chocolate holds a number of health benefits, but new findings explain why. A research team dispatched by Sweden's Linkoping University has found that eating dark chocolate limits an enzyme called ACE, which helps regulate blood pressure and fluid balance. Researchers monitored ACE activity of 16 volunteers before and after eating dark chocolate. The verdict? ACE levels were 18 percent lower after eating the chocolate.
Prior to this study, scientists were aware of the health benefits related to dark chocolate consumption, but unclear of the mechanisms behind these effects.
Don't get too excited -- Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Mike Roizen, the authors of the best-selling YOU and RealAge book series, advise that the flavonoid antioxidants in dark chocolate are so powerful that a tiny piece will suffice. "You don't need a whole bar. Artery-friendly flavonols in dark chocolate are so powerful that a daily piece the size of a Hershey's Kiss can lower your blood pressure," they say.
Findings from the Swedish study coincide with the market release of what is being touted as the world's first multi-vitamin dark chocolate product by US-based "nutraceutical" confectionary company Hero Nutritionals.
The "functional" chocolate range, called Healthy Indulgence, comes in four flavors -- plain, blueberry, mochaccino and vanilla -- each with a specific health function. This chocolate, however, contains only 60 percent cacao.
Meanwhile, the Cacao Genome Project, a joint effort between confectionary giant Mars and a consortium of researchers, is working hard to improve the cacao experience for all chocolate lovers out there. The group has unlocked the genetic code of the cocoa tree and hopes to use the information to enhance the health benefits of Mars' cocoa beans.
Mars rival Hershey launched its "Natural Flavanol Antioxidant Milk Chocolate" in 2007, which it claimed had "more flavanol antioxidants than the leading dark chocolate, with 260mg per 40g serving." This product has since disappeared, but Hershey's Extra Dark 60 percent cacao dark chocolate is available.
Healthy Indulgence functional chocolate: http://healthyindulgence.com/
The Cacao Genome Project: http://www.cacaogenomedb.org/
More on the study findings: http://www.myhealthnewsdaily.com/chocolate-good-heart-health-101116-0749/