Dark chocolate, rich in flavanols, may reduce the risk against cardiovascular diseases by lowering blood pressure, blood flow and improving blood lipid levels, says a new study.
Flavanols, compounds also found in grapes, berries and apples, counteract the role of rogue oxygen molecules known as free radicals which not only damage healthy cells, but also alter cellular DNA and are known to cause at least 60 different health problems, ranging from heart ailments to cancer.
A group of people was randomly assigned by researchers at the San Diego State University, US, to take either a daily serving (50 grams) of regular dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa) or its version that had been overheated or "bloomed," or white chocolate (no cocoa), for a period of 15 days.
According to a university statement, blood pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid profiles, and blood glucose levels of the subjects were recorded at the beginning and end of the study.
When compared to those assigned to the white chocolate group, those consuming dark chocolate had lower blood glucose and low-density of lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL or 'bad' cholesterol) levels coupled with higher high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL, the 'good' form), the study said.
Researchers thus concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving glucose levels and lipid profiles. However, they cautioned that it must be eaten in moderate quantity, as it can easily increase daily amounts of saturated fat and calories.
"We had great compliance with our study subjects because everybody wanted to eat chocolate. We actually had to tell them not to eat more than 50 grams a day," a researcher said, adding that the university is planning follow-up studies involving more people and a longer duration of chocolate consumption.
These findings were presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego, US.