Wageningen, The Netherlands — Dark chocolate consumption is associated with arterial flexibility and preventing adhesion of white blood cells to arterial walls: two contributors to arteriosclerosis, according to Dutch researchers. Furthermore, the amount of flavanols in the chocolate does not appear to affect the results.
Previous studies have shown that consuming flavanol-enriched chocolate and cocoa improve vasodilation, resulting in improved blood flow, but this study explores the effect of a compound in flavanols on preventing leucocyte adhesion to arterial walls, contributing to stiffening of the vessels. Researchers also investigated whether higher concentrations of flavanols produced better outcomes.
Forty-four overweight, non-diabetic men between the ages of 40 and 70 years who were otherwise in good health were randomly assigned to two groups. Every day for four weeks, one group ate 0.07 ounces of chocolate containing high-flavanol cocoa; the other received 0.07 ounces of chocolate with standard amounts of flavanols. Two hours after eating the chocolate, researchers measured blood flow and blood markers, including levels of flavanols, and tested their health and metabolism. After a two-week break, the groups switched regimens for another four weeks.
Before and after each four-week test, the men were asked to rate their desire for chocolate, texture and taste of the chocolate and whether they wanted to finish it.
After the first four weeks, the authors found the men’s arterial flow had improved one percent and the amount of white blood cells adhering to arterial walls and arterial stiffness had decreased. Further, the results were comparable, regardless of whether the men had eaten regular or flavanol-enriched dark chocolate. However, because the men rated the high-flavanol candy as less palatable, they were less motivated to eat it.
“Chocolate-producing companies that want to increase the amount of flavanols in chocolate for vascular benefit product claims will have to deal with the preservation of taste,” the authors write.
The study was published in the current issue of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal.