Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that eating even small quantities of high-quality dark chocolate every day can greatly lower your risk of stroke and heart attack. According to the report, the chemicals in dark chocolate help to reduce the speed of blood clotting by limiting the clumping of blood platelets. Dr. Diane Becker reported the findings this week in Chicago at the annual American Heart Association meeting.
The study was initially designed to test the effects of aspirin on blood clotting, but too many of BeckerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s subjects had Ã¢â‚¬Å“cheatedÃ¢â‚¬Â on their strictly controlled diets–which were supposed to eliminate the consumption of chocolate. Instead, Becker and team decided to test the platelets of the naughty chocolate eaters in order to determine the effects of chocolate on blood-clotting time. By increasing the amount of time it takes for clots to form in blood vessels, dark chocolate can cut a consumerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death nearly in half. In effect, dark chocolateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s clot-prevention benefits are similar to (but not as significant as) those of aspirin.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants known as flavonoids, which are chemicals that have long been known to have positive effects on health and nutrition. It is the purest form of chocolate and is made from the dried extract of the cocoa bean.
In July of this year, the American Heart Association reported that dark chocolate proved beneficial in reducing blood pressure and improving resistance to insulin. At the time, study author Jeffrey B. Blumberg of Tufts University said his research Ã¢â‚¬Å“suggests that cocoa flavonoids appear to have benefits on vascular function and glucose sensitivity.Ã¢â‚¬Â
According to Blumberg, Ã¢â‚¬Å“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 chocolateÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s effect on lowering blood pressure among people with hypertension.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Of course, researchers associated with both studies urge caution in terms of chocolate consumption, noting that the fat and sugar found in chocolate can have negative effects on consumers. Still, it appears that a little dark chocolate (even two tablespoons a day) can go a long way to improving your cardiac health.