In a formal press release yesterday, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) supported high end chocolatier Barry Callebaut's scientific claim that "cocoa flavanols have a positive impact on blood flow". Specifically, his company was able to show that cocoa flavanols helped maintain endothelial dependent vasodilation.
Put more simply, this allows blood vessels to relax and open up, allowing for better blood flow. The health benefits of this may help lower blood pressure, and decrease risk of cardiac related events. Of course, none of this extrapolation has been proven yet, but the basic science has.
In real world terms Callebaut's labs showed that 200 mg of cocoa flavanols (equivalent to 10g of high flavanol dark chocolate, or 1/10 of a chocolate bar!) could positively influence circulation.
The next stage in Europe is for the EU Commission to approve the health claim, which seems quite likely at this point, and if so, would allow Barry Callebaut to apply the claim on packaging, and market chocolate with high flavanol content as "good for you".
Take note: It was the high cocoa flavanol content that produced the positive result. In most conventional chocolate making, this is destroyed, so would not have the same benefits.
Generally speaking, the darker the chocolate, the higher the flavanol content. In Europe, dark chocolate is defined as a minimum of 35% cocoa solids.
What to make of this?
It certainly appears that flavanols may benefit vascular risks, but as always, in moderation. The benefits were shown with the equivalent of ONE piece of a standard chocolate bar, and more is certainly not always better.
Europeans tend to be much better in moderation than their North American counterparts, and I think moderation is the key here.
For today, savour your piece of dark chocolate, and feel better about it!
Let me know what you think!
Will you start eating more dark chocolate?