50+ health * Healthy living

Chocolate can help protect against heart disease

Chocolate can help protect against heart disease Lowers blood pressure as effectively as standard drug treatments

Chocolate has in the past been linked to many possible health benefits , such as protecting the brain against the effects of stroke.

Other studies have found that eating chocolate can also help reduce the risk of heart disease, and now a study has for the first time shown how this might be possible.

Study leader Ingrid Persson explained that the reason for investigating chocolate was linked to the presence of certain key ingredients: "We have previously shown that green tea inhibits the enzyme ACE, which is involved in the body’s fluid balance and blood pressure regulation. Now we wanted to study the effect of cocoa, since the active substances catechins and procyanidines are related."

About the study

The researchers, from Linköping University in Sweden, put a small group of volunteers on a strictly controlled diet for two weeks. After this they were given 75 grams of unsweetened chocolate with a cocoa content of 72 percent. Blood samples were taken in advance and then a half hour, one hour, and three hours after eating the chocolate.

In the sample taken three hours afterwards, there was a significant inhibition of ACE activity. The average was 18 percent lower activity than before the dose of cocoa, fully comparable to the effect of drugs that inhibit ACE and are used as a first-choice treatment for high blood pressure.

As the ACE activity reduces, the blood pressure will also go down. However this particular effect was not directly observed in the volunteers as it would only happen over a longer period of time. But the study does show how chocolate consumption could lead to a blood pressure reduction - a key factor in heart disease risk.

Commenting on the results, Dr Persson said: "Our findings indicate that changes in lifestyle with the help of foods that contain large concentrations of catechins and procyaninides prevent cardiovascular diseases."

The study is published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology.

This article was published on Fri 12 November 2010

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