In 1961, a Canadian journalist noted in the Pasadena Independent: ‘Would you call a person who is fond of chocolate a chocoholic?’. Since that day the word chocoholic has flourished, blossomed and become the scientific condition of chocolate fanatics everywhere. For dear chocoholics, searching for a cure has meant exploring copious amounts of Cadbury’s, Galaxy, Nestle and Kinder medicine variations. Finally, scientists at Sapienza University, Rome, have found a type of chocolate that will have you running to the shops.
Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a collection of studies have provided significant evidence to suggest that dark chocolate is good for our health. Benefits such as; improving blood pressure, providing powerful antioxidants, healthier skin and high amounts of fibre, iron, magnesium and copper. The latest study adding that it may also help to increase walking distance for people with peripheral artery conditions.
The peripheral artery’s contents are characterised by the narrowing of the peripheral arteries, which alters the blood flow to the stomach, arms, head and most commonly, the legs. Cramping and tiredness in the leg during walking or climbing stairs are the most common symptoms.
The study, investigating whether dark chocolate could improve mobility in people with peripheral artery conditions, revealed that after the participants ate dark chocolate they were able to walk for an average of 17 seconds longer and almost 12 meters further than they did before eating the dark chocolate.
The study took place as participants underwent a series of walking tests on a treadmill, over 2 days, and provided blood samples throughout. On day one, subjects were asked to walk for as long as they could on a treadmill, while the researchers measured their walking time and distance. They were then given 40g of dark chocolate before and asked to walk on the treadmill again two hours later. The same process was repeated on the second day, although this time participants were given 40g of milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate.
Senior study author Dr. Francesco Violi believes the results were due to the high volume of polyphenol nutrients in dark chocolate, he said: “These rich nutrients (polyphenol) could represent a new therapeutic strategy to counteract cardiovascular complications.”
Polyphenol is a type of antioxidant, which is found in much higher quantities in dark chocolate. Milk chocolate typically contains 35% cocoa; whereas dark chocolate has 85% cocoa, making it much richer in polyphenol.
There are many other alternatives to dark chocolate that are rich in polyphenols and are healthier in terms of fat and sugar content; for example: peppermint, cloves, celery seed, chestnut, rosemary, spearmint, blackcurrant, black olives, capers and hazelnuts.
Researchers have noted that without a placebo group, the patients were aware of the type of chocolate they were being given, which could have affected the results. More studies are needed in order to follow up these suggestions.
Dr. Mark Creager, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, said: “Other investigations have shown that polyphenols, including those in dark chocolate, may improve blood vessel function.”
What is your favourite dark chocolate recipe?