If you’re an older person struggling to get around because of poor blood flow, try this new and tasty solution: eating more dark chocolate. According to a new study, people with peripheral artery disease (or PAD) who ate dark chocolate were able to increase the time and distance they walked each day.
Roughly one in every five people aged 70 or older are affected by PAD, which makes moving about difficult and can eventually contribute to heart disease.
In a recent study, researchers at Italy’s Sapienza University asked 14 men and 6 women in their late 60s to walk on a treadmill for as long as possible. Participants were then asked to eat milk or dark chocolate. Researchers found that the people who ate milk chocolate did not see any changes in distance walked, while those who consumed dark chocolate were able to walk further.
Researchers also found that a type of gas found in the blood and associated with incrased blood flow was more visible in the people who ate dark chocolate.
It’s important to note that consuming dark chocolate did not lead to massive changes in blood flow or energy. In fact, those study participants who ate dark chocolate only walked for, on average, an additional 17 seconds and 39 feet.
Still, Dr. Thom Rooke–a Minnesota-based cardiologist who did not help with the Italian study–says it’s an important finding worth following up on.
“This is interesting and almost certainly has some scientific validity to it,” Dr. Rooke said. “I’m not at all surprised that things in dark chocolate change measurable things in our blood that are capable of making our blood vessels expand or contract.”