Sweet Tooth, Healthy Heart: Dark Chocolate and Cardiovascular Disease

A study recently published in the Journal of Nutrition’s September 2008 issue establishes a link between dark chocolate and cardiovascular health. The study was conducted by researchers from the Catholic University in Campobasso, the National Cancer Institute of Milan, and the Moli-sani Project, a long-term epidemiological study of the heath of Southern Italian test subjects.

Choosing to focus on detecting inflammation, a risk factor for various cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks or strokes, the researchers focused their study on the presence or absence of the distinctive inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, in the bloodstream of their test subjects. 4,849 subjects exhibiting normal cholesterol levels, normal blood pressure, and other indicators of good heart health, were questioned about their dark chocolate consumption and tested for levels of C-reactive protein. Subjects who consumed moderate amounts of dark chocolate exhibited a 17% reduction in C-reactive protein levels in their blood, indicating a marked reduction in cardiovascular inflammation.

Chocolate lovers be advised: the study established 6.7 grams of dark chocolate, a relatively small amount, as the daily ideal for heart health. The health benefits also seem to be limited to dark chocolate: previous studies have concluded that the milk in milk chocolate inhibits the absorption of the chocolate’s heart-healthy antioxidants and polyphenols. Although this new research doesn’t support gluttonous chocolate binging, it demonstrates that moderate consumption of the right kind of chocolate can be a deliciously indulgent path to good heart health.

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