Could Dark Chocolate Ease Poor Leg Circulation?
Perhaps, but experts say there are better ways to obtain beneficial polyphenols
Both the results and the theory are "intriguing," said Dr. Mark Creager, director of the Vascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
"The results are certainly interesting but modest, in terms of the walking distance improved," said Creager, who also serves as a spokesman for the American Heart Association. "With information such as this, one would anticipate these investigators will conduct a much larger trial with long-term treatment to confirm their observations."
Creager and Chazal noted that chocolate is also high in fat and sugar, and eating too much can contribute to health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.
"People need to be very aware of the fact that there are many substances in chocolate bars that could have an adverse effect on health," Creager said. "I would not recommend that people eat chocolate bars to improve their walking distance."
Chazal agreed, saying the study's true value lies in identifying the way that polyphenols might affect blood flow to the legs.
Polyphenols also can be found in foods with less added sugar and saturated fats, such as cloves, dried peppermint, celery seed, capers and hazelnuts.
"All of us can get very excited about studies like this, but we have to be very cautious in interpreting it in terms of treatment," Chazal said. "At this point in time, I wouldn't consider dark chocolate to be something people should be taking large amounts of as a therapeutic agent. It's possible that moderate amounts might be helpful, but we need confirmation."