A new study suggests eating dark chocolate could help improve energy levels, raise exercise stamina and improve other measures of heart health in sedentary older adults.
The researchers analyzed blood samples, exercise endurance tests and skeletal muscle biopsies of 17 volunteers before and after a three-month period in which participants were randomly assigned to eat either a small amount of dark chocolate or a placebo daily. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew which participants received the placebo until after the study. Subjects given dark chocolate showed improvements in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) and increased proteins associated with metabolism and energy production. Exercise testing indicated these volunteers also had a higher capacity for exercise and more efficient energy production in their muscle cells.
The study is the first to evaluate the effects of dark chocolate at a biochemical and mechanistic level in sedentary older adults, said lead study author Pam Taub, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego Health System and the study’s lead author. She said the results suggest dark chocolate could be an inexpensive and beneficial treatment for older people who are unable to exercise due to disabilities or mobility limitations. Future research could help elucidate other physiological effects of dark chocolate and epicatechin, the component thought to be responsible for its health effects. The study was conducted with funding from the Hershey Company.
Taub will present the study, “Effects of Dark Chocolate (DC) on Exercise Capacity in Sedentary Older Adults (A Double Blind Placebo Controlled Trial),” on Sunday, March 15 at 9:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. UTC in Poster Hall B1.