Drinking a cup of dark chocolate a day, can give relief to older adults suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD). This was the finding revealed by a new study conducted by researchers at the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics/ Department of Preventive Medicine of the Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.
Published in the Circulation Research of the American Heart Association’s journal, the lead author of the study and professor of medicine Dr. Mary McDermott, reported that cocoa flavonols and the epicatechin present in dark chocolate, have therapeutic properties that can work effectively on PAD patients.
Dr. McDermott explained that the disorder is common to people aged 60 and above, who experience not only reduced blood flow in leg arteries, but also suffer from mitochondrial damage in their calf muscles.
How the NWU Research Team Proved the Therapeutic Effects of Dark Chocolate
Mitochondria, as the NWU professor of medicine explained is best described as the human body’s “powerhouse of cells.” Boosts in mitochondrial activity help cells to convert the energy received from food, as well as develop capillary density that is vital to the distribution of oxygen to tissues during exercise.
NWU’s research team was able to show how epicatechin can improve muscle health – improvements that they had observed in 44 of the 60 people who were asked to drink a mugful of cocoa thee times a day for 6 months. On the other hand, another group of people with PAD condition, were asked to consume for six months, placebo beverage that did not contain cocoa.
At the end of the 6-month test period, those who drank chocolate with cocoa flavonols, showed improvement by being able to walk further by up to 42.6 metres in a six-minute test walk. The opposite happened to those who drank the cocoa-less placebo chocolate beverage, since they demonstrated a 24.2 metre decline in the test-walk take after 6 months.
The research team also underscored the fact that regular chocolate beverages that often include sugar as they are commonly available, cannot be expected to deliver the same effect as the cocoa used by researchers in their test.
Dr, McDermott said the findings of their research study are consistent with the results of earlier trials that proved that if PAD is left untreated, it will result to decline in ability to walk distances over a period of time. She also said that
‘If the results of our study are confirmed by way of a larger trial, then the NWU findings suggest that cocoa, a relatively accessible, safe and inexpensive product, has the potential to bring significant improvements in blood flow, calf muscle health, and walking performance of PAD patients.’