Eating dark chocolate rich in flavanols* might be good for your heart, but gaining this potential health benefit can be tricky, according to an Editorial in this week's issue of The Lancet.
Last month, a study in Circulation showed that dark chocolate that is rich in flavanols induced coronary vasodilatation and improved coronary vascular function in 11 heart-transplant recipients compared with patients taking a cocoa-free control chocolate. Other studies have also shown that dark chocolate has cardiovascular benefits.
But before we all rush to buy our festive supplies of dark chocolate, "there is a catch" states the editorial. Some chocolate manufacturers remove the flavanols, which are bitter, from the darkened cocoa solids, so that even dark-looking chocolate can have no flavanol, and thus no health benefit. Consumers are also kept in the dark about the flavanol content of chocolate because manufacturers rarely label their products with this information. Moreover, even if falvanols are present the editorial warns, "the devil in the dark chocolate is the fat, sugar, and calories it contains." To gain any health benefit those who eat a moderate amount of flavanol-rich dark chocolate would have to balance the calories by reducing their intake of other foods, claims the editorial.
But after all Christmas is nearly upon us , and The Lancet wouldn't want to disappoint. The editorial concludes: "Of course some would say that, in terms of food intake, the best and simplest health message would be to stay away from the chocolate and eat a healthy, balanced diet, low in sugar, salt, and fat, and full of fresh fruit and vegetables. We say: 'Bah, humbug to that. Pass the chocolates.'"
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Notes to Editors
*Flavanols are chemicals found in cocoa that have a strong antioxidant capacity.
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