Dark Chocolate May Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease [Study]

Eating dark chocolate that is rich in cocoa extract could protect against heart disease and stroke, especially in men, according to a study from the UK, which could be a bonus if you are eating a lot of treats over the holidays.

Heart disease risk increases due in part to blood clots. These clots occur when platelets in the blood become overactive and sticky. In the study, University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health researchers found that dark chocolate rich in compounds called flavanols have a beneficial effect on platelet function.

The study consisted of 26 women and 16 men who ate enriched dark chocolate and then had their blood and urine analyzed.

The Medical Express website summarized the findings:

“[Scientists] discovered that the specially enriched dark chocolate significantly decreased both platelet activation and aggregation in men; however it only decreased platelet aggregation in women. The strongest effects were seen two hours after the chocolate had been eaten.”

Activation is a reversible process when platelets become stressed and sticky, while aggregation is a non-reversible process when sticky platelets clump together.

Lead researcher Dr. Baukje de Roos observed that improvements were noted in both genders but more noticeably in males:

“It was especially interesting to see that both men and women had improvements in their platelet function, but in different ways. The strength of the effects seems to be more pronounced in men.”

Dr. de Roos also cautioned that people should avoid going crazy eating chocolate in the name of heart health, however.

“Nevertheless, it is important to remember that these findings are not a carte blanche to eat chocolates as they are extremely rich in fat and sugar. But if you are going to eat chocolate — and there will be plenty on offer over the festive spell — it’s better to choose dark chocolate, containing at least 70% cocoa.”

The study was published in the Molecular Nutrition Food Research journal.

A prior study suggested that dark chocolate could help address high blood pressure.