Chocolate prevents stroke

A new study shows that eating just a single chocolate bar improves blood flow in the brain and may cut the risk of stroke.

The researchers from Glasgow University measured the speed of blood flowing through the biggest artery in the brain while subjects ate chocolate lying down and found that the chocolate improved blood flow and altered carbon dioxide levels. 
Study leader Professor Matthew Walters said the results were consistent with other beneficial qualities of chocolate.

"Consumption of a normal chocolate bar was associated with a change in stiffness of the blood cells," Walters told the UK's Daily Mail.

"Our data is consistent with a direct effect of chocolate on the brain blood vessels."

Flavonoids and heart health: Australian long-term study is world first
This is not the first research to suggest that a daily dose of chocolate might do you good. A 2012 study conducted by Monash University and published in the British Medical Journal, observed 2013 participants over 10 years and concluded that the blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering properties of dark chocolate could "potentially prevent 70 non-fatal cardiovascular events and 15 cardiovascular related deaths per 10,000 population treated over 10 years".

One of the study's authors, PhD student Ella Zomer, said the study was the first to examine the long-term health benefits of flavonoids.

"We've predicted significant health benefits of eating 100g of dark chocolate every day over a 10 year period. That's about the equivalent of one premium-quality block containing a minimum 70 percent cocoa," Ms Zomer said.

"Our findings indicate dark chocolate therapy could provide an alternative to or be used to complement drug therapeutics in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease."

Gabrielle Maston, an accredited clinical dietician, nutritionist and proprietor of Changing Shape in Sydney also supports the notion that dark chocolate is good for heart health.

"The main benefit of dark chocolate comes from cocoa beans, which are rich in a type of plant nutrient called flavonoids," she says.

"Flavonoids act as antioxidants and work to reduce cholesterol and cell damage implicated in heart disease. They also assist the body by lowering blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide. Finally, flavonoids balance certain hormones in the body, including oestrogen."

This last benefit has caused some researchers to suppose that in addition to bolstering a healthy heart, dark chocolate can also help protect against cancer.

Earlier studies
In August, 2011, the British Medical Journal selected seven studies for analysis, concluding that "based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders."

One of the largest population studies of its kind ever conducted in Europe is the Moli-sani Project. In 2008, lead author, Romina di Giuseppe published his findings in the Journal of Nutrition, supporting the idea that eating dark chocolate daily benefits heart health. He concluded that the benefit "is enough to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease for one third in women and one fourth in men. It is undoubtedly a remarkable outcome."

Other benefits of dark chocolate
Aside from bolstering heart health, Maston advises that the recommended daily consumption of 100g of dark chocolate may offer additional benefits. "Dark chocolate stimulates endorphin production, which gives a feeling of pleasure, and it stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain, which may make you feel happier. Dark chocolate also contains theobromine and caffeine, which have a stimulant effect."

Things to remember

•Research shows that the healthy heart benefits of dark chocolate only relate to chocolate of more than 70 percent cocoa (Dairy Milk doesn't count!)
•Balance the extra calories by cutting some out elsewhere in your diet (100g of dark chocolate daily equates to about 500 extra calories)
•Too much, or the wrong type of chocolate (white chocolate and milk chocolate) can counteract the healthy heart benefits by contributing to weight gain, a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes

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