For all those chocolate lovers, a new study has revealed that daily intake of dark chocolate bars containing plant sterols and cocoa flavanols may reduce cholesterol levels and improve blood pressure.
A collaborated study led by researchers from University of Illinois and Mars has found that daily consumption of CocoaVia dark chocolate bars significantly improves blood pressure and helps in regulating cholesterol levels.
The researchers conducted the study over 49 men and women with elevated cholesterol. They were asked to consume flavanol-rich dark chocolate bars formulated with or without added plant sterols daily for four weeks.
All the chocolate bars contained approximately 180 mg of cocoa flavanols and were matched in calories, nutrients, and the amount of theobromine and caffeine, natural compounds in cocoa that can affect blood pressure.
The findings revealed that as a part of a balanced, low-fat diet, regular consumption of CocoaVia(r) plant sterols (natural plant extracts) lowered total cholesterol by 2 per cent and LDL cholesterol (or bad" cholesterol) by 5.3 percent in individuals with elevated cholesterol.
Furthermore, it also reduced systolic blood pressure by 5 per cent after 8 weeks.
"Our study supports the possibility that chocolate products specially formulated to contain both plant sterols and cocoa flavanols can, in the context of a balanced diet, be a practical and enjoyable dietary strategy to help support healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy blood pressure," said Catherine Kwik-Uribe co-author, PhD and a research scientist for Mars.
The new study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.