Dark Chocolate Improves Walking Autonomy in Patients With Peripheral Artery Disease

Patients with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) might find relief from dark chocolate, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. PAD – a common circulatory problem where narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs – often results in pain when blood flow cannot keep up with the body’s demands, particularly with movement and exercise.

Researchers from Sapienza University of Rome in Italy have discovered that patients with PAD who ate dark chocolate were able to walk 11 percent farther than patients with PAD who ate milk chocolate.

The benefits of consuming dark chocolate observed in the study are possibly attributable to compounds in cocoa, which may reduce oxidative stress and improve blood flow in the peripheral arteries. Dark chocolate used in the study – with a cocoa content of more than 85 percent – is rich in polyphenols, whereas the milk chocolate had a smaller concentration of the substance.

Researchers believe that the polyphenol content of the dark chocolate affects an enzyme that plays a pivotal role in human artery dilation and oxidative stress production. Of the 20 patients studied in the small, single-blind study, those who consumed dark chocolate not only showed an 11 percent increase in maximal walking distance, but also a 15 percent increase in maximal walking time.