Dark chocolate is one of the most delicious substances known to man, and it has the added benefit of being fairly good for you in moderation. A study led by Diederik Esser from Wageningen University in the Netherlands has shown that ingesting dark chocolate can actually improve vascular health. The results were published in The FASEB Journal.
Before we go any further, it needs to be made quite clear that studies referring to the benefit of dark chocolate are not talking about your average Hershey’s bar. Typical candy bars have a low cocoa percentage and much larger amounts of sugar and fat, which negate any incurred health benefit, if not actually making it worse. The chocolates with the highest cocoa mass content are typically more bitter than sweet.
The forty-four study participants were all middle-aged men who were overweight. Each day for two weeks, they were given 70 grams of chocolate. Though the percentages of cocoa were the same, one chocolate had a higher amount of flavanol, while the other was made regularly.
After the study’s completion, participants were found to have an increased flexibility in their arteries, which is likely staving off atherosclerosis and improving blood flow. The increased level of flavanol did not have any benefit in this study; it just added an extra bitter taste to the chocolate, which made the participants not want to eat it.
The research team hopes that a pill could eventually be produced that targets the best parts about dark chocolate, with more consistent outcomes and less confusion about how much to ingest for the maximum benefit.
Critics of the study argue that these conclusions cannot be asserted with only 44 participants. Additionally, at the onset of the experiment, the participants were instructed to avoid certain calorically-dense foods that would have caused additional weight gain. This opens the possibility that the change in diet may have impacted heart health more than the chocolate.