Smokers should be encouraged to indulge their sweet tooth, judging from the results of a new study into how daily consumption of a specially-prepared cocoa beverage benefits blood vessel function.
The research, published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, monitored a group of 11 healthy male smokers who consumed three doses a day of a flavanol-rich cocoa drink provided by confectionery giant Mars. The volunteers consumed a total of 918mg of flavanols daily during the trial.
Within two days participants showed a significant improvement in blood vessel function and researchers noted that impairment of blood flow could almost be reversed with consumption of a mixture containing 306mg of flavanols on day seven.
Scientists concluded that regular consumption of special cocoa containing flavanols may have a sustained benefit on blood vessel health and possibly even reverse damage in vessel function.
The discovery joins the growing body of research into the far-reaching health benefits of cocoa and in particular the flavanol present in unprocessed beans.
Recently chocolate manufacturers have been vociferous in pushing the health aspects of cocoa to combat consumer concerns, with confectioners such as Nestlé and Mars pouring investment into nutrition research.
Aside from the circulatory benefits of flavanols, other research into their effects suggests they can halt the development of cancer cells, lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
A week after the study ended, participants discovered that blood vessel function had returned to pre-trial levels, indicating that flavanol consumption must be maintained.
The study, conducted by the University of California and the University Hospital in Aachen, Germany, stresses that further clinical trials are necessary to more accurately determine the impact of flavanols on circulatory health.
Source: Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology 2007
Volume 49(2), Pages 74-80
"Sustained Increase in Flow-Mediated Dilation After Daily Intake of High-Flavanol Cocoa Drink Over 1 Week."
Authors: C. Heiss, D. Finis, P. Kleinbongard, A. Hoffman, T. Rassaf, M. Kelm, H. Sies