Dark chocolate helps seniors make strides

More research supporting the cardio-boosting powers of polyphenols.

A small new study suggests dark chocolate helps seniors walk farther and for longer. The Italian study found that seniors suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD) who ate a dark chocolate bar were able to slightly increase the time and distance they walked a couple of hours after the snack, compared to people who ate milk chocolate. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and noted on Reuters.

One in five people aged 70 and older living in Western countries suffers from PAD, according to the article. In addition to being a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, the condition can cause legs to hurt and cramp while walking. The polyphenols packed in dark chocolate may explain the seniors’ improved performance, according to Dr. Lorenzo Loffredo, of Sapienza University in Rome, the study’s lead author.

For the study, researchers put 20 people in their late 60s on a treadmill and asked them to walk as long as they could. The machine was set at about 2.2 miles per hour at a 12-percent grade. Participants were then randomly assigned to eat a bar of either dark or milk chocolate and re-took the treadmill test two hours later.

For the milk chocolate munchers, the time and distance they walked did not change from the first to the second treadmill session. But those who ate dark chocolate walked about 17 seconds longer and 39 feet farther on their second walk.

Loffredo told the news service that a future study will need to look at a larger group of people and assess longer-term consumption of dark chocolate. Also, he said the researchers can’t be sure that compounds besides polyphenols in the dark chocolate made the difference.

While small, the study is the latest in a line of research highlighting heart-healthy polyphenols. A new review of research in a special Polyphenols and Human Health issue of the journal Nutrients outlines data supporting a polyphenolic fountain of youth.

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