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Dark Chocolate Could Be Good For You!

Nutritionists have long said that eating dark chocolate in moderation can be good for our health. Now, researchers have discovered why. It may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis - thickening and hardening of the arteries - by restoring flexibility of the arteries and preventing white blood cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls.

The research team, including Prof. Diederik Esser of the Top Institute Food and Nutrition and the Division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University, both in the Netherlands, recently published the study. To reach their findings, the investigators analyzed 44 overweight men aged between 45 and 70 years.

Over two periods of 4 weeks, the men were required to eat either 70 g of regular dark chocolate each day or 70 g of specially produced dark chocolate with high levels of flavanol - a naturally occurring antioxidant found in some plants, including the cocoa plant. Both chocolates were similar in their cocoa content. Subjects were asked not to eat other foods high in calories during the study period, in order to prevent them from gaining weight.

The researchers assessed how both the chocolate high in flavanols and the regular chocolate stimulated the participants' senses over the study duration. In other words, they looked at whether flavanol content motivated the subjects to eat the chocolate.

Researchers say eating dark chocolate may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis - the hardening and thickening of the arteries. Results of the study revealed that both groups showed a 1% decrease in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a 1% decrease in augmentation index (AIX), reduced leukocyte (white blood cell) count, decreased plasma sICAM1 and sICAM3, and a reduced leukocyte adhesion marker expression. This means the consumption of dark chocolate lowered participants' risk of atherosclerosis - a condition that can be caused by arterial stiffness and white blood cell adhesion.

However, the researchers found that although the chocolate higher in flavanols increased sensory stimulation in participants, both types of chocolate produced the same heart benefits.

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