According to a paper by German researchers, chocolate may be a tasty way to control blood pressure and protect the heart, proving that Willy Wonka was on the right track.
But before you stock up on chocolate eggs, remember this: the biggest chocolate benefit was observed in individuals who ingested approximately 7.5 grams of chocolates each day. A standard Hershey bar weighs 1.55 ounces. Therefore a quarter of an ounce is equivalent to a mere bite.
According to Brian Buijsse of the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Nuthetal, Germany, and colleagues, taking 7.5 grams of chocolates daily resulted in much lower blood pressure than consuming only a pinch daily. They published their findings in the European Heart Journal online.
In the past decade, chocolate’s potential cardiac and vascular advantages have been the subject of intense research. Research published just last month indicated that chocolate reduced the risk of stroke.
For this study, researchers examined over 20,000 cancer patients enrolled in a big European cancer study. The patients’ ages ranged from 35 to 65, and the study was done between 1994 and 2006.
A questionnaire was used to measure dietary patterns and health outcomes, and the cohort was tracked for an average of eight years.
The researchers also questioned a subgroup of 1,568 patients to recall their chocolate consumption over 24 hours to determine whether they consumed white, milk, or dark chocolate.
They reported that both systolic — the first number in blood pressure — and diastolic — the second number in blood pressure — were around one point lower on average.
Unsweetened or dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa solids, will have more flavonoids. The study indicates that dark chocolate contains 46 to 61 mg of catechin, a type of flavonoid, per 100 grams (approximately one ounce), whereas milk chocolate contains only 15 to 16 mg.
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Advising people to consume dark chocolate for its health benefits is a persuasive recommendation, and older Americans have taken it to heart. According to the most recent data from the market research firm Mintel, the majority of dark chocolate eaters are now men and women aged 55 and older.
In a poll conducted in May 2008 of consumers who had purchased chocolate for themselves in the preceding year, two-thirds of those aged 55 or older reported choosing dark chocolate. Even higher, about 75%, was the desire for darkness among those aged 65 and older. But Ding and his team warn that commercial processing and added sugar in the typical dark chocolate bar can negate a substantial portion of its health benefits.