Eating dark chocolate is associated many health benefits, particularly with significantly lower cardiovascular disease risk and stroke, all-cause mortality factors and cardiovascular related mortality. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Studies show that consuming 50g of dark chocolate per day may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 10.5%, by reducing some of its main risk factors, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. (5)
Effects of cocoa consumption on the cardiovascular disease risk factors:
Polyphenols in dark chocolate inhibit inflammation
Their anti-inflammatory properties are due to the:
- Inhibition of the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that cause endothelial dysfunction
- Increase of the antioxidant activity, when combined with vitamin C and selenium
- Prevention of pro-inflammatory substances that cause tissue damage by sticking to the endothelium, resulting in atherosclerosis
- Decreased production of pro-inflammatory and vasoconstrictive leukotrienes. Some of the most important anti-inflammatory polyphenols are epicatechin and procyanidin
Eating dark chocolate reduces blood pressure
Nitric oxide is a chemical compound with powerful vasodilating and anti-inflammatory properties.
It has been shown that eating dark chocolate with high flavonols, increases vasodilation and the relaxation of the arteries, by increasing and enhancing the nitric oxide bioactivity in the blood.
One hundred grams of dark chocolate consumed daily reduces systolic blood pressure by 5.1 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.8 mm Hg. (15)
Flavonols in cocoa reduce plaque formation
If the endothelium is damaged through some form of stress, platelets stick to the damaged area and take part in the inflammatory responses and plaque formation.
Flavonols, which are contained in concentrated amounts in cocoa, significantly reduce the platelet activity, and, therefore, the risk of plaque formation.
Stearic acid and certain minerals which are present in cocoa, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium, may also play a role in modulating platelet formation. (20)
Eating dark chocolate reduces cholesterol levels
Eating dark chocolate significantly reduces LDL cholesterol levels (LDL-c) in people with mildly elevated levels and increases the level of (good) HDL cholesterol (HDL-c) in people with normal or mildly elevated levels. (21, 22, 23)
Although there are conflicting studies, most evidence shows that the consumption of dark chocolate protects lipids from oxidation.
For more details on the effects of eating dark chocolate on heart health, see “Human Trials Investigating Cardiovascular Effects of Cocoa or chocolate.”