PAD Patients Got Moving with Dark Chocolate

Eating dark chocolate tied to improved walking ability for patients with peripheral artery disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Peripheral artery disease (PAD) reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can make it painful to walk for some patients. Eating a certain tasty treat before going on a walk may ease some of that pain.

In a recent study, PAD patients were able to walk longer and farther after eating dark chocolate.

The researchers suggested that short-term consumption of dark chocolate might improve blood flow and walking ability for PAD patients.

"Ask a dietitian about healthy foods that promote blood flow."

Lorenzo Loffredo, MD, of I Clinica Medica in Rome, Italy, led this study.

Peripheral artery disease, or PAD, is a condition in which arteries in the legs, stomach, arms and head become narrower. Because the arteries are narrower, they cannot transport as much blood. This reduced blood flow can cause pain and cramping while walking.

According to Dr. Loffredo and colleagues, more than 20 percent of adults older than 70 years old in Western countries have PAD.

This trial involved 20 PAD patients and looked at the effect of chocolate on PAD and walking ability.

Dark chocolate contains substances called polyphenols. Previous research has suggested that these polyphenols regulate NOX-2, which impairs artery dilation.

Dr. Loffredo and team took blood samples and conducted tests to determine each patient's maximum walking time and dilation of blood vessels.

Then, these researchers gave 40 grams of milk chocolate to 10 of the patients and 40 grams of dark chocolate to the other 10. Two hours later, the researchers collected samples and performed the tests again.

The researchers found that eating dark chocolate increased patients' maximal walking distance by 11 percent and walking time by 15 percent. 

Additionally, the dark chocolate patients had 57 percent more nitric oxide, a gas tied to improved blood flow, in their blood after eating the chocolate compared to before eating the chocolate.

No changes in those factors were seen in the group that ate milk chocolate.

The researchers concluded that short-term intake of dark chocolate may improve PAD patients' ability to walk longer and farther.

They suggested that this improvement might be related to polyphenols, the substances in cocoa that promote blood flow.

The authors of this study called for more research on the effect of dark chocolate consumption on PAD.

This study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on July 2.

The research was funded by the Sapineza University of Rome. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 2, 2014
Last Updated:
July 5, 2014