Along the lines of finding out red wine can provide heart health benefits, the European Society of Cardiology has published research from Italy stating that “dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil is associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile.”
How was this discovered? Researchers tested 26 middle-aged volunteers with at least three cardiovascular risk factors each, dangers like family histories of high blood pressure or heart disease, high cholesterol, and smoking habits. For one month the volunteers were given a 40-gram sample of dark chocolate each day, and at the end of the trial, the data led researchers to conclude that olive oil enriched chocolate had substantially lowered blood pressure, increased ‘good cholesterol’ (high-density lipoprotein), and EPC levels in the volunteers.
One of the researchers, Dr. Di Stefano, said, “We found that small daily portions of dark chocolate with added natural polyphenols from extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) was associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile. Our study suggests that extra virgin olive oil might be a good food additive to help preserve our ‘repairing cells,’ the EPC.”
The New England Journal of Medicine has discussed the correlation between endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and cardiovascular function—every adverse cardiovascular event is preceded by a loss of EPCs. The more damage done, the more these reparative cells are used up, and the more likely it becomes that irreversible injury can occur (like a heart attack or stroke). Di Stefano states to Medscape Cardiology, “We can improve this with statins, for example, but we can also improve this with chocolate.”
Di Stefano went on to say that a small piece of dark chocolate contains as much polyphenol as two glasses of red wine or one cup of green tea, and that olive oil and apples also contain polyphenols.
This study suggests that we can now add dark chocolate to the list of heart-beneficial foods—if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, so might 40 grams of EVOO-infused dark chocolate.