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Your Heart May Love Chocolate Even More than You Do

A study published in the March 2010 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition found that the cocoa flavonols found in chocolate may ease exercise related heart function, adding to a growing body of evidence linking chocolate to cardiovascular health.

Researchers from the University of South Australia recruited 21 overweight and obese individuals with an average age of 55 for their study.

The participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups at the start of the study. One group received a high-flavonol beverage (701mg) and the other received a low flavonol beverage (22 mg). The participants then crossed over to the other group after a 3-7 day wash-out period.

Two hours after consuming the beverage the participants cycled for 10 minutes at 75% of their maximum heart rate. The researchers found that when the participants consumed the high-flavonol beverage their blood pressure after exercise was 14% lower on average.

The researchers also observed a slight increase of 6.1% in flow-mediated dilation after drinking the high flavonol beverage. Flow-mediated dilation is a measurement of our blood vessels healthy ability to relax.

Flavonols, the naturally occurring antioxidants found in cocoa, have previously been shown to decrease inflammation, protect our DNA from damage and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow.

Not all chocolate is created equal, in fact, chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa, such as dark chocolate, tend to be much healthier. It’s important not to over indulge though. If you eat more than 1-2 servings of chocolate a day the high saturated fat content can easily outweigh any antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

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