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Healthy Chocolate And Heart Health

Healthy Chocolate And Heart Health
By Chris Robertson

More Americans die each year from heart disease than any other cause, it is the number one killer disease in the US and parts of Europe. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 2,500 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of one death every 35 seconds.

There is a surprising new source of heart support, and more and more medical studies are showing that the incredible effect of raw, cold processed cacao beans, the beans used in healthy chocolate, give tremendous support to the cardiovascular system in various ways.

What Can Cocoa Do For My Heart?

A 2006 study from a joint team of researchers from the University of California-Davis and the University of Dusseldorf in Germany ascertained that the compound epicatechin found in cocoa is directly linked to improved circulation and other hallmarks of cardiovascular function. The researchers explained that the relaxation response observed in the blood vessels of the subjects was mediated by nitric oxide (NO), a key signal released by the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium). Because the vessels are able to relax and become less stiff, they are less susceptible to clotting, blockage and risk of high blood pressure. (1)

Cesar G. Fraga of the University of Buenos Aires recently demonstrated a rise of chocolate-derived procyanidins in the blood of men and women who had just eaten cocoa-based foods. His team found that blood sampled two hours after cocoa consumption protected its circulating lipids from oxidation. The more chocolate they ate, the better the protection. (2)

Nutritionist Carl L. Keen of the University of California-Davis says that prostacyclins are naturally occurring compounds that inhibit platelet clotting, reduce risk of thrombosis and blood vessel constriction, and prevent the oxidation of LDL (the "bad" cholesterol), as well as its entry into the blood vessel walls, where it can result in inflammation. Keen's study, published in a 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that the procyanidin and flavonol content of cocoa again demonstrated significant antioxidant properties and the ability to protect the heart and vascular system. (3)

If you have high blood pressure, a daily serving of flavonol-rich dark chocolate might lower your blood pressure, researchers report in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. (4) "Previous studies suggest flavonoid-rich foods - including fruits, vegetables, tea, red wine, and chocolate - might offer cardiovascular benefits, but this is one of the first clinical trials to look specifically at dark chocolate's effect on lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension," said one of the authors of the study. The findings also prompted the researchers to recommend that flavonoid-rich foods should be part of an overall healthy diet, and dark chocolate should be part of that effort.

The More Cocoa, the Better

When it comes to the health benefits ascribed to chocolate, they're almost exclusively related to the dark, bittersweet-tasting chocolate and to products with a cocoa content of 60% or more. Because healthy polyphenols are found in the cocoa bean but not in the milk, cream, sugar, waxes, fillers, fats and preservatives that are often added to chocolate, the darker the chocolate the better. It's also important to preserve chocolate's antioxidant properties and avoid "Dutch process" and alkalinization. Similarly, because heat can destroy cocoa's polyphenols, choose cocoa beans that have been cold-pressed.

Beyond those caveats, enjoy chocolate and keep your heart healthy!

(1) Schroeter H, et al. - Epicatechin mediates beneficial effects of flavanol rich cocoa on vascular function in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006 Jan 24;103(4):1024-9

(2) Engler M, et al.Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults. J AM Coll Nutr. 2004 Jun;23(3):197-204

(3) Keen CL et al. Cocoa antioxidants and cardiovascular health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1Suppl):2985-303S

(4) Baba, S, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):709-17

(Information herein is NOT intended as medical advice. No therapeutic or medical claims are either implied or made. DO NOT ALTER ANY MEDICAL TREATMENT, OR THE USE OF MEDICATIONS, WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF YOUR MEDICAL CARE PROVIDER. FDA regulations prohibit the use of therapeutic or medical claims in conjunction with the sale of any product not approved by the FDA.)

Chris Robertson is an author of Majon International, one of the worlds MOST popular internet marketing companies on the web. Learn more about Healthy Chocolate and Heart Health or Majon's Health and Beauty directory.

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