Dark chocolate and health

Chocolate and the heart
In a study about 500 elderly men, the regular consumption of 5 to 10 grams of chocolate containing 70 percent cocoa was associated with a 50 percent drop in the mortality rate related to the cardiovascular system. A study involving more than 1200 elderly women showed that those who frequently ate dark chocolate enjoyed a drop of almost 40 percent in their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Substances known as proanthocyanidins – also present in cocoa – modify the expression and activity of proteins involved in the transportation of cholesterol, causing an increase in good cholesterol (HDL) and a reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL). Cocoa flavonols also reduce the aggregation of platelets in the blood vessels, and inhibit inflammation of the cells lining the arteries. Both of these actions reduce the likelihood of clotting.

Chocolate and blood pressure
Closely associated with cardiovascular disease is elevated blood pressure or hypertension. The flavonols in dark chocolate have also been shown to help reduce blood pressure. They achieve this by increasing the activity of nitrous oxide in the blood vessels.

Much of chocolate’s appealing taste and texture can be attributed to the combination of fat and sugar. One ounce of chocolate delivers about 9 grams of fat, which is divided into three types:

  • stearic acid – a saturated fat that doesn’t increase cholesterol
  • oleic acid – the same healthy monosaturated fat that’s in olive oil
  • palmitic acid – another saturated fat which does increase cholesterol and therefore heart attack risk

Chocolate is also a source of oxalate (a compound also found in spinach) which inhibits calcium absorption from the digestive tract and increases its excretion in the urine. Those who consumed chocolate every day were found to have lower bone density and strength compared with those who did not have any chocolate.

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