Dark chocolate, in moderation, has been promoted as being good for one’s health because it contains a group of compounds called flavanols.
Flavanols are found in a range of other foods and beverages including some fruits, vegetables, red wine and tea. Flavanols have many health bene ts including being rich in antioxidants, assisting blood ow, regulating blood pressure, improving immune sensitivity and improving immune responsiveness.
The mechanism in avanols that’s likely to be responsible for the range of health bene ts with which it’s associated, is through the increased bioavailability and bioactivity of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a cellular signaling molecule involved in a number of physiological processes and is also stimulated by exercise.
Researchers are now investigating how natural supplements like dark chocolate might potentially be able to mimic some of the physiological effects of exercise.
Through further investigation researchers studied a group of 20 healthy, sedentary volunteers looking at exercise capacity and molecular skeletal muscle changes. Participants consumed either 20g of dark chocolate or the same amount of ‘placebo’ chocolate, which was very low in cocoa avanols for three months. There was no active exercise program as part of the study.
The results showed that those taking the dark chocolate had improvements in various outcomes. These included a rise in VO2 max (a tness measure of maximum oxygen intake into the lungs), an increase in peak muscle power output, favourable changes in HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
This was a small study and further research is needed to confirm the association between dark chocolate and exercise supplements. Nevertheless, the ndings add to the growing evidence base for avanols helping to improve health. A small dose of dark chocolate each day may help to combat some of the ill effects associated with chronic disease and physical inactivity.
Reference: Taub, PR et al. Beneficial effects of dark chocolate on exercise capacity in sedentary subject: underlying mechanisms. A double blind, randomized, placebo controlled trial. Food & Function Epub online Aug 5, 2016. Doi: 10.1039/c6fo00611f.