Heart Health From Dark Chocolate and Plant Sterols

A new study shows that you can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol by eating CocoaVia, a dark chocolate bar that also contains plant sterols.

According to a recent study, published in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, “There are two components of the chocolate bar; the first is that it contains plant sterol esters, which have been added, which have been demonstrated to reduce serum cholesterol. The second aspect is the cocoa flavanols, which are not added but are present in cocoa and the cocoa bean and preserved in the chocolate bar.

The flavanols are what have received the most interest in terms of vascular effects." The author of the study, Dr John Erdman (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, believes chocolate lovers may now be able to make healthier choices.

The best news is that the study participants did not experience any weight gain. The chocolate bar contains about 100 calories and 6 g of total fat. The group that ate the bar regularly experienced a 5.3% drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol, and a 2% drop in total cholesterol. Blood pressures decreased by 5.8mm/Hg.

Dark chocolate has been shown to improve cardiovascular health in past studies. The addition of the plant sterols seems to provide a bit of extra help to the cardiovascular system.

Even though the study was funded by Mars, Dr. Erdman says: "We've run cholesterol studies in the past, and I can tell you we ran this study just like we ran any other trial," he said.

You can buy CocoaVia at Wal-Mart, CVS, and online at Drugstore.com.

 Plant sterols and dark chocolate, when used together, are beneficial to cardiovascular health.

J Nutr 2008; 138:725-731