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Could Dark Chocolate Help Ease Poor Leg Circulation?

In a recent HealthDay News article, it was highlighted that the antioxidants present in dark chocolate may offer potential benefits to individuals experiencing reduced blood flow to their legs, as per findings from an Italian report.

According to a small-scale study, individuals with artery issues in their legs exhibited a slightly longer and farther walking distance after consuming a bar of dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is renowned for its rich content of antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. Researchers posit that polyphenols enhance blood flow to the legs by influencing biochemical processes that encourage the widening of arteries.

The human body releases chemicals that naturally expand blood vessels in response to specific stimuli, thereby improving blood circulation to particular regions. Some compounds within dark chocolate are believed to impact the metabolism of these enzymes in the body.

The pilot study involved 20 participants aged 60 to 78 suffering from peripheral artery disease, characterized by narrowed arteries that supply blood from the heart to the legs, stomach, arms, and head. Insufficient blood flow can result in pain, cramping, or fatigue during walking.

During the study, participants walked on a treadmill in the morning and again two hours after consuming 40 grams of either dark or milk chocolate – equivalent to the size of an average American chocolate bar – on separate days. The dark chocolate used in the study had a cocoa content exceeding 85 percent, making it rich in polyphenols. In contrast, the milk chocolate, with a cocoa content below 30 percent, had significantly fewer polyphenols, as noted by the study authors.

Following the consumption of dark chocolate, participants walked an average of 11 percent farther and 15 percent longer than they did earlier in the day. This translates to approximately 39 feet farther and about 17 seconds longer, according to the study published on July 2 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

However, milk chocolate did not exhibit improvements in time or distance, according to Dr. Lorenzo Loffredo, study co-author and assistant professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, and colleagues.

The researchers noted elevated levels of nitric oxide, a gas associated with improved blood flow, after the consumption of dark chocolate. They proposed that higher nitric oxide levels might be responsible for the dilation of peripheral arteries, thereby enhancing patients’ walking abilities.

While the study results and theories are intriguing regarding the potential impact of polyphenols on leg blood flow, additional research is necessary to validate these observations. It’s important to note that polyphenols are also present in foods with less added sugar and saturated fats, such as cloves, dried peppermint, celery seed, capers, and hazelnuts.

It’s crucial to recognize that chocolate is high in fat and sugar, and excessive consumption can contribute to other health issues, including obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Therefore, before rushing to the nearest candy store to stock up on dark chocolate, it’s wise to remember the principle of moderation. While the study suggests that moderate chocolate consumption might aid in improving blood flow to the legs, further research is needed to substantiate these findings.

If you decide to incorporate dark chocolate into your diet in moderation and observe any noticeable changes in your walking abilities, we’d love to hear from you.