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Ask the Nurse: CHOCOLATE, NATURE'S PANACEA

Updated on June 27, 2008

Chocolate: Panacea for Happiness and Health

 

by Helen Borel, RN,PhD

Dark Chocolate, replete with bioflavonoids, contributes to improved cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health, according to Dr. Mary Engler of the University of California at San Francisco, School of Nursing.

Her salubrious conclusion refers to the results of a study1 she and her co-investigators conducted on some lucky volunteers who got to eat chocolate during the full time period of their experiment.

Two groups of chocolate lovers were instructed to eat one bar of dark chocolate (amounting to 1.6 oz.) q.d. (daily) for 14 days. One group was given dark chocolate bars - usually highest in cocoa content, compared with milk chocolate for example - that contained its natural high level of flavonoids, the targeted active ingredient known as epicatechin.

The second group was fed what appeared to be the same dark chocolate of the same weight and at the same daily dosage for two weeks as well. Except that, unbeknownst to the subjects in either group, the flavonoids from the dark chocolate bars eaten by the group 2 subjects were removed.

The object of the study by Dr. Engler and her colleagues was to compare, by various cardiovascular tests, how the flavonoid and nonflavonoid chocolate-eating subjects fared.

Blood Vessel Benefits of Dark Chocolate

Bioflavonoids are known to forestall inflammation within blood vessel walls triggered by immune system reactions. Concomitantly, they also prevent atherosclerotic (fatty, hardening) conditions from forming by controlling the deposition of cholesterol intravascularly as well.

Thus flavonoids, and therefore dark chocolate, decrease coagulatory (clotting) responses thereby minimizing thrombus (clot) formation. In other words, somewhat like aspirin, dark chocolate thins the blood, preventing the thickening that produces thrombi.

Dangers of Atherosclerotic Deposits

This positive flavonoid action is crucial because thrombi can loosen and travel via the circulatory system to the heart, causing a heart attack; to the brain, causing a stroke; and to the peripheral vessels in the legs causing a venous (of the veins) thrombus which can loosen and travel to the lungs. All three of these potential conditions can be fatal.

Bearing in mind that vessels at risk of atherosclerosis tend toward more rigidity, with greater constriction of the lumen (the hollow path within a blood vessel), this will lead to restricted blood flow and deprivation to vital bodily organs of needed nutrients and oxygen. And such vascular pathology will promote hypertension (high blood pressure) - a silent inducer of CVAs (cerebrovascular accidents = strokes), MIs(myocardial infarctions = heart attacks), and kidney disease.

Subjects Eating Flavonoid-Rich Dark Chocolate had Healthier Blood Vessels...

Thus, normally dilating arteries permit increased blood flow and reduced probability of the dire conditions just mentioned. And this study demonstrated a healthier vascular dilatation-constriction process in the flavonoid subject group.

...and Other Studies Report Antihypertensive and Anticancer Effects of Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate has also been shown, in other studies, to lower blood pressure and to have some anticancer protective properties.

So, dosing yourself with some squares of dark chocolate a day may be one of the most enjoyable medical regimens people can follow as prophylaxis against two of the most widespread life-threatening conditions in the world - heart disease and cancer.

1. Engler, RN,PhD, Mary B.: J. Amer. Coll. Nutrition, Vol. 23, (June) 2004, pp. 197-204.

© copyright 2008 by Dr. Helen Borel. All rights reserved.

For permissions and rights, email me medical-healthalerts@earthlink.net and type into the Subject line "BOREL MEDICAL SYNDICATE"

And, I invite you to visit my fiction/humor, my freelance writing advice, my Borel Opinion Column, and my mental health and psychotherapy articles at http://hubpages.com/ where I'm one of the "hubbers" under the screenname of Creativita.

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    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

      another super reason to eat a bit of chocolate. yummmm very informative and thank you for sharing your knowledge of this!!

    • profile image

      Helen 9 years ago

      Hi sixtyorso - Nice hearing from you again! Listen, in my nursing experience a systolic (the top number) or 122-130 is verrrrrrrry normal! As is a diastolic (the bottom number) of 78 to 85. Well, maybe 85 is too high, 90 would be not good. But a BP of 122/78 is exceptionally normal....too much lower and we're heading toward shock. I know about the combo statin/vessel dilator. Dunno what your cholesterol or lipid level is, but...I guess your doctor has the whole picture on you and knows what he/she is doing. As to chocolate, ISN'T IT WONDERFUL THAT NOW WE CAN CLAIM IT IS A MEDICINE AND WE'RE NOT SINFUL OR OVERINDULGING? Best regards, Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)

    • sixtyorso profile image

      Clive Fagan 9 years ago from South Africa

      I have heard a lot lately about he benefits of dark chocolate. Now with your hub I have proof and can go ahead and introduce a couple of blocks of dark chocolate to my daily diet. I do have slightly elevated BP with a range of 122-130 over 78-85. I am on 10mg Caduet which is a combo statin and vascular dilator. Thanks for the interesting hub.

    • profile image

      Creativita 9 years ago

      Constant Walker, I love dark chocolate too. Approx. every other day, I eat a couple of squares of a bar of Hershey's Dark Chocolate. After all, it's not a "sinful indulgence," it's good medicine. LOL -Helen (a.k.a. Creativita)

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Not that I needed it, but it's good to know my dark chocolate addiction is actually good for me. Have you tried dark M&M's, yet? Yummy!

      TIP: Wal-Mart and Winco both have gourmet chocolates (VERY dark included!) in their candy aisles. ;)

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