Eating Dark Chocolate Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

by Jodee on April 12, 2010

If the Easter Bunny dropped off some chocolate treats for you this past weekend, don’t worry about indulging in this most crave-worthy food.

The results of a German study indicate that eating the sweet stuff may help to lower the risk of developing heart disease.

The study followed approximately 20,000 participants between the ages of 35-65. Each person’s blood pressure was checked, and their height and weight were noted. They were also asked to complete a questionnaire with questions about their health.

Questions About Chocolate

The study participants were asked how often they ate a 50 gram bar of chocolate. The entire group of participants weren’t asked whether they usually ate milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate, but a smaller sampling of 1,568 participants were asked to write down their chocolate intake over a 24-hour period.

Milk chocolate was the most popular choice, with 57 percent choosing this type. Dark chocolate lovers accounted for 24 percent of the sample and white chocolate was consumed by 2 percent of the smaller group.

Every two or three years, the participants were sent a follow-up survey. The participants were asked whether they had experienced a heart attack or a stroke. Death certificates for participants who had died were examined to gather information about the cause of death.

Chocolate Good for Your Heart

The results of the study were published in the European Heart Journal and revealed that the participants who ate 7.5 grams of chocolate per day had a lower risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than the participants who didn’t eat chocolate regularly.

The magic ingredient in chocolate that offers this health benefit is the flavanols in cocoa.  Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of this substance, and is more effective at increasing the amount of nitric oxide in the walls of the blood vessels. Dr. Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition explained, “Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen; this may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function, making the blood less sticky.”

Whatever the reason, eating a couple of squares of dark chocolate per day is good for your heart. Just be sure to watch your intake so that you don’t gain weight while trying to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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