In June, the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology published a special supplement on cocoa flavonols, with 17 articles about chocolate’s health benefits, ranging from lower blood pressure to increased brain blood flow and better skin health (honest!).
In November, independent researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the US announced a study that showed a small amount of chocolate slowed platelet clumping. Platelets are important blood cells that promote the formation of blood clots – useful when it comes to limiting blood loss from a wound, but not so good when they form blood clots inside the circulatory system, as this can cause damage to blood vessels or, in the worst cases, trigger a heart attack or stroke. So, if chocolate does indeed slow the clumping of platelets, it could be very beneficial to health.
It’s enough to make you look for Willy Wonka’s nearest factory. There’s only one problem: much of this research has been sponsored by Mars, the company that makes M&Ms and Snickers.
Mary Engler is an exception. A cardiovascular physiologist at the University of California in San Francisco, Engler, along with her twin sister and fellow PhD Marguerite, has spent the last 15 years researching the connection between diet and blood vessel health. In 2004, the Englers published the first independent study, in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, to show that dark chocolate allows the arteries to expand and carry more blood.