A Prescription for Dark Chocolate

September 4th, 2012  |  The Blog

Are you kidding me? Dark chocolate is just what the doctor ordered. A new study has recently revealed that dark chocolate can be effective in lowering blood pressure and low-density lipid (i.e., bad cholesterol) levels in high-risk cardiovascular patients. The delicious treat has also been shown to increase high-density lipids or good cholesterol.

The Recipe

To be the most effective in offering cardiac protection, the chocolate must be:

  • Dark
  • At least 60 to 70 percent cocoa
  • Enriched with polyphenols or flavanoids

Polyphenols are flavonoids, which have anti-thrombotic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory and metabolic effects. All of these characteristics are considered to be cardio-protective.

Be aware, this is an everyday prescription. That said, you need to eat dark chocolate everyday to enjoy the full benefit. Don’t complain, it could be worse!

How It Works

The flavanols or antioxidants in dark chocolate are processed by the body, resulting in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a chemical that relaxes the blood vessels in the body. Relaxed blood vessels reduce the resistance of the blood flow. Less obstructed blood flow naturally leads to lower blood pressure. This is a good plan for both health and delicious flavor.

The Cost of Chocolate

It is estimated that eating $42.00 worth of dark chocolate per year will save $52,500 per person per year in health care costs.

The Results

Eating dark chocolate everyday has been reported to lower blood pressure by 2-3 mm HG or pressure units after a two to eight week period, according to a recent study. The amount of dark chocolate consumed is 30 to 100 grams of chocolate, which delivers 30 to 1080 milligrams of healthy flavanols or antioxidants a day. This represents 1 to 3-1/2 ounces of dark chocolate; an average Hershey’s dark chocolate candy bar is 4.25 ounces. Flavanols are also reported to possibly help patients experiencing mild cognitive impairment.

One caveat: It is important to watch the calorie intake from chocolate to prevent it from being counter-productive by causing unhealthy weight gain. Some healthcare providers are concerned enough that they recommend eating other flavanol-rich food items like beans, apricots, apples and blackberries instead of high-calorie chocolate. The lesson to be learned here is: everything in moderation.

Be aware that, while dark chocolate has a positive effect on blood pressure, it is minimal at best. Consultation and advice of a primary care physician will deliver the best results to both you and your hypertensive patient.

 

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