Chocolate May Help Aging Blood Vessels
Flavonol-Rich Cocoa May Improve Blood Vessel Function
Aug. 4, 2006 -- Getting your chocolate fix may actually help fix aging
blood vessels, according to a new study.
Researchers found adults who drank a specially processed cocoa beverage rich
in flavonols for four to six days improved their blood vessel function, and
older adults appeared to benefit the most.
"Aging is typically associated with deterioration in vessel health,
specifically related to function of the critical inner lining, or
endothelium," says researcher Naomi Fisher, MD, assistant professor of
medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a news release. "Our findings
demonstrate that consumption of this flavonol-rich cocoa can improve the
function of blood vessels in a healthy elderly population."
Flavonols are a class of antioxidants found in plant-based foods and
beverages -- such as cocoa, wine, and tea -- which have been increasingly
linked to heart benefits.
Chocolate's Good for the Heart
In the study, published in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers
had 15 healthy adults under age 50 and 19 healthy adults over 50 drink a
specially made flavonol-rich cocoa every day for four to six days.
The cocoa beverage was made with Mars Cocoapro, which is a process that
helps retain the flavonols naturally found in cocoa beans. Mars Inc. provided
the cocoa beverage and also provided partial funding for the study.
Before and after the study, researchers measured the participants' blood
The results showed blood vessel function improved among both younger and
older adults after the cocoa phase. But these improvements were more pronounced
in the older group.
Researchers say the findings agree with previous studies that suggest
flavonols found in cocoa appear to benefit blood vessel function by influencing
the body's production of nitric oxide, which helps regulate blood vessel
But before you reach for that chocolate bar, experts say the flavonol-rich
cocoa products used in these studies should not be confused with commercially
available snacks that contain many calories but are low in natural cocoa and