Background: Chocolate has been getting a pretty good press recently. Its benefits may range from naturally occurring antioxidants, to reducing the clumping of platelets, to elevating the good HDL cholesterol. Now it seems that dark chocolate may relax the blood vessels.
Study: Fasting volunteers ate a bar of bittersweet chocolate and the next day abstained from chocolate. For a period of 3 hours each day, the changes in arterial tension were measured in their arm. The readings indicated that their arteries were less stiff and 20% more dilated (wider) after they had snacked on a bar of bittersweet chocolate.
Comment: This study involved eating 100 grams of bittersweet chocolate at a time. This is a lot of chocolate. An "average" chocolate bar tends to be around 85 grams. And depending on the brand, a bar can contain around 600 calories.
One cardiologist participating in the study is a milk chocolate aficionado but he said that having to eat the bittersweet chocolate proved to be more medicine than a treat. So chocoholics should think twice before rushing out to stock up on their favorite chocolate bars.
Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors, MedicineNet.com