Eating a piece of dark chocolate a day can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke for women, according to a new study published in Molecular Nutrition Food Research.
Scientists at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, and the Institute of Food Research in Norwich found that eating chocolate had anti-clotting effects which were activated within two hours of consumption. Whilst the benefits were greater for men, a positive impact was also seen in women.
During the study, which covered 26 women and 16 men, the scientists studied the reaction of blood after consumption of dark chocolate enriched with cocoa extract, which contains more flavanols. They were interested in the impact on blood clotting, which is a result of over-active platelets sticking together, blocking blood vessels, potentially leading to heart attacks and strokes.
It was found that the consumption of flavanol-enriched dark chocolate by women resulted in a significant reduction in platelet aggregation, which is the process of sticky platelets clumping together that cannot be reversed.
The study also showed that bleeding time, which declines as platelets get sticky, increased significantly six hours after consumption of enriched dark chocolate. This is possibly a result of the metabolites produced in the body from flavanols.
According to lead researcher Dr Baukje de Roos, the positive effects probably lasted no more than two days, so people needed to eat chocolate on a daily basis to see continued benefits. However, this concerned only consumption of a little bit of chocolate containing no less than 70% cocoa, she noted.