Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingNew research is touting again the health advantages of certain kinds of chocolate.
At XOX Truffles in North Beach, the house specialty is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. And dark chocolate appears to be the better choice, according to the results of a new clinical study. UCSF researchers say the health benefits of dark chocolate may be sweeter than you ever imagined.
Mary B. Engler, PhD, RN, UCSF Dept. of Nursing: "There are a number of beneficial effects that the little cocoa bean, the bioactive substance can have on cardiovascular function."
Dr. Mary Engler is a professor in the department of physiological nursing at UCSF. She is also the lead author of a study that examined the effects of chocolate on blood vessels in healthy people.
Researchers found that small daily doses of dark chocolate consumed over a two-week period improved the blood vessels' ability to dilate or expand -- and that means better vascular health and a lower risk of heart disease.
Dr. Mary Engler: "Actually the expansion or the dilation of the artery is helpful because it allows for increased blood flow and it's important for the heart."
Chocolate contains plant-derived chemicals called flavonoids – compounds that act as powerful antioxidants. The darker the chocolate, the richer it is in these flavonoids. In fact, dark chocolate contains more flavonoids than green tea, red wine or blueberries.
Chocolate lovers loved hearing the news. However, researchers caution that moderation is key.
Dr. Mary Engler: "You're dealing with more calories, certainly if you increase the amount of chocolate that you would have, and certainly that energy that you take in needs to be expended, otherwise you're going to have an increase in weight."
The study suggests a chocolate with at least seventy percent cocoa content is best, and the participants ate 46 grams or 1.6 ounces a day. Remember, more research needs to be done to confirm these findings, but there probably won't be a problem finding volunteers.