Dark Chocolate Improves Blood Flow To Legs, Boosts Walking Ability
Many studies have shown that dark chocolate has healh benefits, but few have shown such immediate remedial benefits as the study published in the most recent Journal of the American Heart Association. Could the study, although conducted with peripheral artery disease (PAD) patients, also suggest some benefit to athletes, particularly marathoners?
That remains to be seen. But the researchers at the Sapienza University of Rome and the IRCCS NeuroMed institute in Pozzilli, Italy did find as immediate a result as one can generally get when it comes to the impact of a food on one's performance.
Twenty subjects, ages 60 to 79, who were diagnosed with PAD, were given a treadmill test and their times and distances were recorded. PAD-significant blood tests were also administered. The next round of treadmill tests were given two hours after participants were randomly given 40 grams of chocolate - either dark chocolate with about 85 percent cocoa content or milk chocolate with approximately 30 percent of cocoa content.
Cocoa contains polyphenols, natural chemicals found in cocoa, as well as coffee, green tea, olives, wine, and many fruits and vegetables, noted for their antioxidant properties. The higher the cocoa content in chocolate, the higher the level of polyphenols, and the thesis of this study was that the dark chocolate would have the most impact on the walking ability of the PAD patients because the polyphenols would reduce oxidative stress, thereby opening up the arteries and improving blood flow to the patients' legs.
The thesis was confirmed by the results. Indeed, those who ate the dark chocolate two hours before their treadmill tests walked 11 percent longer and walked needing less assistance than they did on their base tests. Blood tests also confirmed improvement in PAD-significant markers.
‘Polyphenol-rich nutrients could represent a new therapeutic strategy to counteract cardiovascular complications,’ said Francesco Violi, study senior author and professor of internal medicine at the Sapienza University, although studies with larger samples are needed to confirm these results.
Imagine being given a prescription for a dark Godiva chocolate bar!