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Scientists Put Chocolate Heart Health Claims to the Test

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A number of studies over the past decade or so have shown that consuming dark chocolate can help lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol levels. Now, scientists plan to put those claims to the test.

It’s believed that cocoa benefits our hearts by acting as a vasodilator, which means it causes muscle cells within blood vessel walls to relax. This results in those blood vessels widening, allowing for better blood flow and lowering our blood pressure.

To test these claims, scientists will give 18,000 people from Boston and Seattle daily doses of chocolate. But participants won’t be pounding back Hershey bars — instead, they’ll be given capsules with concentrated amounts of the bio-active chemicals found in cocoa beans.

The idea is to extract all of the nutritional benefits of chocolate and leave behind the sugar, calories, and fat. It’s estimated that even dark chocolate (which is considerably healthier than milk chocolate) contains 240 calories, 10 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of fat per serving.

The study will involve participants taking two chocolate capsules per day over a four-year period. They’ll undergo regular medical examinations to see how the cocoa injections affect their overall health.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a candy company stands behind the research. Mars Inc., makers of the Mars bar and M&Ms, is funding the study alongside the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Mars Inc., which also makes Twix, Snickers, and Skittles, already sells a cocoa extract capsules product called CocoaVia.

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