A local health charity and researchers from Queen’s University Belfast are telling people to give dark chocolate to their loved ones this Valentine’s Day to improve their heart health.
Professor Jayne Woodside from QUB, who was part of the research team, explained. “Our study showed that if you eat a fruit and vegetable-rich diet, including a portion of berries and 50g of dark chocolate per day, this has a positive effect on blood flow and total cholesterol, both of which are good news for heart health.”
In the research study which was funded by Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke, 92 participants with high blood pressure were split into two groups. One group ate only two portions of fruit and veg per day for eight weeks. The other group ate a total of six portions of fruit and veg every day for the same period, including a portion of berries. They also ate 50g of 70% cocoa dark chocolate every day.
Professor Woodside continued by explaining the science behind the research findings, “It may seem strange to recommend eating chocolate to improve your health, but dark chocolate and berries are particularly good sources of polyphenols, which are naturally occurring compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The berries we encouraged in the study included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries, which could be fresh or frozen. “At the end of eight weeks, we found a significant improvement in the blood flow of the people who had eaten berries and dark chocolate, and a significant reduction in their total cholesterol.
“This is an important result because it provides additional evidence that eating a polyphenol-rich diet leads to improvements in blood vessel function, which in turn could lead to a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes in future.”
Researchers at QUB are currently studying ways to encourage the Northern Irish population to adopt a Mediterranean Diet and hope to publish their results later this year.