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Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties

Aug. 27, 2003 -- Got high blood pressure? Try a truffle. Worried about heart disease? Buy a bon-bon.

It's the best medical news in ages. Studies in two prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate -- but not white chocolate or milk chocolate -- is good for you.

Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure

Dark chocolate -- not white chocolate -- lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

But that's no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure -- if you've reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."

Translation: Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate" as you nibble.

The Studies

Taubert's team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure -- on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84.

Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate.

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