Chocolate Beneficial for Heart Health Hickory NC
Rutherford College, NC
Chocolate Beneficial for Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of disorders that affect the heart and blood vessels. These disorders include hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, atherosclerosis, congenital heart disease, and cardiomypathies. Arteries that become clogged from a build up of fats and cholesterol will eventually cause heart and blood vessel problems. There are many risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Three that cannot be changed are older age, male gender, and a family history of CVD. Additionally, three other major risk factors include cigarette smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Other identified factors associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease include lack of exercise, diabetes, obesity, too much alcohol, increased homocysteine levels, certain infections and inflammation, estrogens, androgens, and certain psychosocial factors. The combination of multiple risk factors must also be considered.
Chocolate comes from the seed of the tropical cacao tree and has a bitter taste which must be fermented to develop the flavor. Then the beans are dried, cleaned and roasted and the shell is removed. Next they are processed into a pure chocolate fluid (chocolate liquor) and are further processed into two forms: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cacao has been cultivated for over three thousand years in Mexico, Central and South America. It was used originally as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. The three most common chocolates would be dark, milk and white chocolate. Studies have found dark chocolate to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack. Another study found athletes who consumed chocolate milk had less muscle damage than athletes who consumed a different drink.
The objective of a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was to evaluate the effects of cocoa consumption in high risk patients for atherosclerosis. Forty-two men and women at high risk for coronary heart disease were recruited for this randomized crossover feeding trial. They were randomly given either skim milk or skim milk plus cocoa powder for the first four weeks and then were switched over and given the opposite of what they had previously for another four weeks. Cellular and serum inflammatory biomarker indicators for atherosclerosis were evaluated before and after each intervention period. Results showed biomarkers were significantly lower when the participants consumed the milk with the cocoa powder in comparison to when the participants drank just the skim milk. In conclusion the authors said "These results suggest that the intake of cocoa polyphenols may modulate inflammatory mediators in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. These anti-inflammatory effects may contribute to the overall benefits of cocoa consumption against atherosclerosis."1
1 Monagas M, Khan N, Andres-Lacueva C, et al. Effect of cocoa powder on the modulation of inflammatory biomarkers in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. Sep2009.