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Good news for chocolate lovers: An Italian study found that dark chocolate decreases blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity in healthy people without diabetes. White chocolate (which does not contain flavanols), however, was not found to have the same effects.
According to Italian researchers, flavanols, which are found in dark chocolate, “may exert significant vascular protection because of their antioxidant properties and increased nitric oxide bioavailability.” In turn, they say, “nitric oxide bioavailability deeply influences insulin-stimulated glucose uptake and vascular tone.”
After a seven-day “cocoa-free run-in phase,” 15 healthy subjects were assigned to receive 100 grams of dark chocolate or 90 grams of white chocolate for 15 days and then crossed over to the other treatment group after a seven-day “cocoa-free washout phase.”
“[Insulin resistance] was significantly lower after dark than after white chocolate ingestion,” write the researchers. In addition, systolic blood pressure was an average of 107.5 mmHg after eating dark chocolate, compared to 113.9 mHg in the white chocolate group, although blood pressure was within normal limits in both groups.
—American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2005
A note from Gerri French, MS/RD, CDE:
One hundred grams of chocolate is about 3.5 ounces, which contains about 540 calories, 59 grams of carbohydrate and 30 grams of fat. To prevent weight gain, have a smaller portion or consider sugar-free dark chocolate, which will have less calories from carbohydrate although the fat content is usually the same.
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