Dark chocolate may improve blood flow
A new small study shows that older adults with poor flow to their legs may be able to walk that extra mile with the help of something pretty “sweet”— dark chocolate.
The research from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy shows that those who have problems walking and moving around were able to increase distance, and the time it takes to get there, after eating a dark chocolate bar. These patients were compared with people who ate milk chocolate, according to the study.
The study included 14 men and six women in their 60s who were asked to walk on a treadmill for as long as they could, at about 2 miles per hour and 12-percent grade, according to the study.
After those results were recorded, participants then ate either a dark chocolate bar or a milk chocolate bar. Researchers had them wait two hours, and then asked for them to walk on the treadmill again.
The results showed that those who ate the dark chocolate bar walked about 17 seconds longer and about 40 feet farther compared to the unchanged results of the milk chocolate eaters.
The participants’ blood flows were also examined, and those who ate dark chocolate had increased flow, according to the study.
Jamie Portnoy, registered dietitian at Advocate Medical Group explains how chocolate can help.
“The flavanols in dark chocolate can stimulate the endothelium, the lining of arteries, to produce Nitric Oxide (NO), which is a gas, which then sends signals to the arteries to relax which lowers the resistance of blood flow and blood pressure,” Portnoy said.
Research also suggests that eating polyphenol-rich nutrients may lead to improved blood flow in the legs.
Dr. Lorenzo Loffredo, lead study author from SU, said in a statement that nutrients are a major attribute when it comes to good health and avoiding disease.
Polyphenols are compounds that are found in foods, such as cocoa, that can help with elderly people diagnosed with peripheral artery disease to walk farther before there is pain, according to the AHA.
Researchers said that they are not surprised that there are certain benefits from dark chocolate; however, more research needs to be conducted using a larger group of participants as these small contributions may not be very noticeable in everyday routine.
Portnoy also suggests that dark chocolate can improve health and lower the risk of heart disease.
“A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains 11 grams of fiber,” she said. “I always recommend that even with the benefits that dark chocolate have, we still remember moderation is key!”
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