Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

Is Dark Chocolate the New Aspirin

 :: Posted by avi_wener on 04-18-2010

Several weeks ago I told you about a study in the European Heart Journal that described how dark chocolate helps lower the risk of Cardiovascular disease (see how biotechnology saved the easter bunny). Well, it turns out that much like Aspirin which is used to treat a variety of conditions (fever, pain, anti-inflammatory, heart attacks, blood clots, stroke…) dark chocolate may be the “drug” of choice for a variety of clinical pathologies. In a study presented at the International Liver Congress this week, scientists described their finding that dark chocolate can help reduce damage to the blood vessels of cirrhotic patients.

Check out the press release from the European Association for the Study of Liver:

Vienna, Austria, Thursday 15 April
Doctors could soon be prescribing a dose of dark chocolate to help patients suffering from liver cirrhosis and from dangerously high blood pressure in their abdomen, according to new research1 presented today at the International Liver CongressTM 2010, the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Liver in Vienna, Austria.

According to the Spanish research, eating dark chocolate reduces damage to the blood vessels of cirrhotic patients and also lowers blood pressure in the liver. Dark chocolate contains potent anti-oxidants which reduce the post-prandial (after-meal) blood pressure in the liver (or portal hypertension) associated with damaged liver blood vessels (endothelial dysfunction). The data also showed that eating dark chocolate may exert additional beneficial effects throughout the whole body. In comparison, white chocolate, which contains no beneficial „phytochemicals‟, did not result in the same effects.
Professor Mark Thursz, MD FRCP, Vice Secretary of EASL and Professor of Hepatology, at Imperial College London said: “As well as advanced technologies and high science, it is important to explore the potential of alternative sources which can contribute to the overall wellbeing of a patient. This study shows a clear association between eating dark chocolate and portal hypertension and demonstrates the potential importance of improvements in the management of cirrhotic patients, to minimise the onset and impact of end stage liver disease and its associated mortality risks”.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of long-term, continuous damage to the liver2. In cirrhosis, circulation in the liver is damaged by oxidative stress and reduced antioxidant systems. After eating, blood pressure in the abdominal veins usually increases due to increased blood flow to the liver.
This is particularly dangerous and damaging to cirrhotic patients as they already have increased blood pressure in the liver (portal hypertension) and elsewhere which, if severe, can cause blood vessel rupture. Thus, eating dark chocolate may ultimately prevent this potential threat to cirrhotic patients.
In this study 21 cirrhotic patients with end stage liver disease (child score 6.9±1.8;MELD 11±4; hepatic venous pressure gradient (HPVG*)16.6±3.8mmHg) were randomised to receive a standard liquid meal. Ten patients received the liquid meal containing dark chocolate (containing 85% cocoa, 0.55g of dark chocolate/Kg of body weight) while 11 patients received the liquid meal containing white chocolate which is devoid of cocoa flavonoids (anti-oxidant properties) according to body weight. HVPG, arterial pressure and portal blood flow (PBF)** were measured at baseline and 30 minutes after meal administration, using a US-Doppler.

Both meals caused a highly significant but similar increase in portal blood flow with a +24% increase in dark chocolate compared to +34% in those patients who received white chocolate. Interestingly, post-prandial hyperaemia*** was accompanied by an increase in HVPG resulting in a statistically significant increase (17.3±3.6mmHg to 19.1±2.6mmHg, p=0.07) for those patients eating dark chocolate and those receiving white chocolate (16.0±4.7mmHg to 19.7±4.1mmHg, p=0.003). Post-prandial increase in HVPG was markedly reduced in patients receiving dark chocolate (+10.3±16.3% Vs +26.3±12.7%, p=0.02).

*HVPG is blood pressure in the liver
**PBF refers to blood flow in the liver
***Hyperaemia refers to increase blood flow to tissues

About EASL
EASL is the leading European scientific society involved in promoting research and education in hepatology. EASL attracts the foremost hepatology experts as members and has an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education and promoting changes in European Liver policy.

How Biotechnology Saved the Easter Bunny

 :: Posted by avi_wener on 04-01-2010

It seems that the European Heart Journal has its heart set on making parents feel better about their childrens’ consumption of chocolate Easter eggs just in time for the upcoming holiday. In a study published this month, German scientists are reporting that chocolate consumption may help reduce one’s risk of cardiovascular disease. The study looked at 20,000 patients between the ages of 35-65 over a period of 8 years and found that on average mean systolic BP was 1.0 mmHg and mean diastolic BP 0.9 mmHg lower in the top quartile compared with the bottom quartile of chocolate consumption.

The popular media has jumped all over this story which makes sense considering that chocolate is a universal temptation, and consumers of mass media gobble up any story that makes them feel good about their chocolate intake. But how much of a good thing should be deemed too much? According to EurekAlert Dr Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany, who led the research warned consumers against increasing their intake of the calorie rich snack and was quoted as saying that “small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable.”

It must also be stressed that this study looked at the dietary habits of a large group of people over an 8 year period. This is far from a controlled study. It is quite possible that there were other factors including lifestyle, exercise and diet that may have impacted on the results in addition to (or instead of) the “chocolate factor.” While there have been several studies that have pointed to the cardio protective effect of dark chocolate, it is important to recognize that everything must be taken in moderation and that there’s an overabundance of literature associating the negative impact of weight gain and cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion: Always keep your eyes open to a variety of conditions when studying complicated interactions and while you should enjoy your Easter egg, be sure to keep that bunny hopping. The exercise will definitely help.