A Dark Chocolate Treat Improves Blood Vessels

If you have to ask if a specific food is good for you, nine times out of 10, you already know the answer. That was the gist of a story I wrote a year ago about the pros and cons of eating chocolate.

Probably the most important benefit about eating chocolate: Dark chocolate has antioxidant properties, which can actually help to protect the body from damaging oxidative stress. Adding milk to chocolate, however, cancels out the antioxidant effects, according to a study published in the journal Nature. But I digress...

For those of you who are looking for another healthy reason to eat chocolate, a group of Grecian cardiologists found it: Eating dark chocolate appears to improve the function of important cells lining the wall of blood vessels for at least three hours.

The study, involving 17 healthy young volunteers who agreed to eat a bar of dark chocolate and then get an ultrasound, found that eating dark chocolate seemed to make the blood vessels more flexible, which helps prevent the hardening of the arteries that leads to heart attacks.

Cardiologists tested whether chocolate affected the functioning of the so-called endothelial cells in the walls of blood vessels, which are believed to be affected by oxygen damage and are considered a mirror of the overall health of the cardiovascular system.

Don't forget, too much of a good thing--gorging on chocolate as a way to ward off heart trouble--can be a bad thing too. Excess calories lead to weight gain, which is a powerful trigger of heart problems. Any benefit to blood vessel flexibility would probably be wiped out by the danger of the weight gain.

Yahoo News August 29, 2004

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