Dark Chocolate May Lower Risk of Heart Disease

TUESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Dark chocolate may lower your risk of heart disease by lowering levels of blood glucose and bad cholesterol while boosting levels of good cholesterol, a small new study suggests.

Chocolate contains compounds called flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Previous research has shown a link between flavanol intake and risk for cardiovascular disease.

In this study, San Diego State University researchers assigned 31 people to consume 50 grams per day of either dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa) or white chocolate (0 percent cocoa). Dark chocolate was used because it has higher flavanol levels than milk chocolate.

The participants' blood pressure, forearm skin blood flow, circulating lipid (fat) profiles and blood glucose levels were recorded before and after they consumed the chocolate for 15 days.

The tests revealed that those who ate dark chocolate had lower levels of blood glucose and "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and higher levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol than those who ate white chocolate.

The study is scheduled to be presented today at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Despite these and other findings that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers said chocolate must be eaten in moderation because of its saturated fat and caloric content.

It's estimated that the typical American consumes more than 10 pounds of chocolate a year.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about chocolate and health.

SOURCE: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, news release, April 24, 2012

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