Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Chocolate 'offenders' teach science a sweet lesson

Study helps explain heart benefits from daily -- but small -- dose of chocolate

Some "chocoholics" who just couldn't give up their favorite treat to comply with a study to test blood stickiness have inadvertently done their fellow chocolate lovers - and science - a big favor.

Their "offense," say researchers at Johns Hopkins led to what is believed to be the first biochemical analysis to explain why just a few squares of chocolate a day can almost halve the risk of heart attack death in some men and women by decreasing the tendency of platelets to clot in narrow blood vessels.

"What these chocolate 'offenders' taught us is that the chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack," says Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Becker cautions that her work is not intended as a prescription to gobble up large amounts of chocolate candy, which often contains diet-busting amounts of sugar, butter and cream. But as little as 2 tablespoons a day of dark chocolate - the purest form of the candy, made from the dried extract of roasted cocoa beans - may be just what the doctor ordered.

Researchers have known for nearly two decades that dark chocolate, rich in chemicals called flavonoids, lowers blood pressure and has other beneficial effects on blood flow. The latest Hopkins findings, to be presented Nov. 14 at the American Heart Association's annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago, identified the effect of normal, everyday doses of chocolate found in ordinary foods, unlike previous studies that found decreased platelet activity only at impractically high doses of flavonoids equivalent to eating several pounds of chocolate a day.

"Eating a little bit of chocolate or having a drink of hot cocoa as part of a regular diet is probably good for personal health, so long as people don't eat too much of it, and too much of the kind with lots of butter and sugar," says Becker.

In the study, 139 people Becker - whom Becker somewhat tongue in cheek calls "chocolate offenders" - were disqualified from a much larger study looking at the effects of aspirin on blood platelets. The Genetic Study of Aspirin Responsiveness (GeneSTAR) was conducted at Hopkins from June 2004 to November 2005 and enrolled more than 500 men and 700 women participants nationwide.

Shortly before aspirin dosing began for the subjects, they were told to stay on a strict regimen of exercise and to refrain from smoking or using foods and drinks known to affect platelet activity. These included caffeinated drinks, wine, grapefruit juice - and chocolate.

The non-compliers - who admitted to eating chocolate - were a diverse group who got their flavonoid "fix" from a variety of sources, including chocolate bars, cups of hot cocoa, grapes, black or green tea, and strawberries. And while they were excluded from the aspirin study, Becker and her team scoured their blood results for chocolate's effect on blood platelets, which the body recycles on a daily basis.

When platelet samples from both groups were run through a mechanical blood vessel system designed to time how long it takes for the platelets to clump together in a hair-thin plastic tube, the chocolate lovers were found to be less reactive, on average taking 130 seconds to occlude the system. Platelets from those who stayed away from chocolate as instructed clotted faster, at 123 seconds.

In another key test of urine for waste products of platelet activity, primarily urinary thromboxane (11-dehydro-thromboxane B2), scientists found that chocolate eaters showed less activity and waste products on average, at 177 nanograms per millimol of creatinine, versus an average of 287 nanograms per millimol of creatinine in the group that abstained.

Participants ranged in age from 21 to 80; 31 percent were black and the rest were white. In total, more than 200 different tests of platelet reactivity were performed and analyzed in the study. Because whole blood contains other cells that affect platelet aggregation, testing was repeated using a purified version of test samples made up of strictly platelet-rich plasma.

None of the "offenders" had previous histories of heart problems, such as a heart attack, but all were considered to be at slightly increased risk of heart disease because of family history. Fifty percent of women participants were postmenopausal.

"These results really bring home the point that a modest dietary practice can have a huge impact on blood and potentially on the health of people at a mildly elevated risk of heart disease," says study co-author Nauder Faraday, M.D., an associate professor at Hopkins. "But we have to careful to emphasize that one single healthy dietary practice cannot be taken alone, but must be balanced with exercise and other healthy lifestyle practices that impact the heart."

David March | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht NIH scientists describe potential antibody treatment for multidrug-resistant K. pneumoniae
14.03.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Researchers identify key step in viral replication
13.03.2018 | University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>