Italian researchers have shown the unique combination of dark chocolate and olive oil can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Even more so than dark chocolate combined with Italian Panaia red apples, which are known to contain high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants.
"A healthy diet is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease," said lead author Dr Rossella Di Stefano, a cardiologist at the University of Pisa, Italy. "Fruits and vegetables exert their protective effects through plant polyphenols, which are found in cocoa, olive oil, and apples.”
The study included 26 healthy volunteers with at least three cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, or a family history of cardiovascular disease. They were given 40 grams (1.4 ounces) of dark chocolate for 28 consecutive days. For 14 days consecutive days it either contained 10 percent extra virgin olive oil or 2.5 percent Panaia red apple. The chocolate combinations were given in random order.
The progression of heart disease was measured through urine and blood samples looking for metabolic changes such as levels of carnitine and hippurate, lipid profile, blood pressure and levels of EPCs (endothelial progenitor cells, which are vital for vascular repair and maintenance of endothelial function).
Researchers found that the chocolate enriched with olive oil was associated with significantly increased EPC levels and decreased levels of hippurate and carnitine compared to both the baseline levels and those that consumed the apple-enriched chocolate. The olive oil and chocolate also led to a significant increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol and decreased blood pressure.
"We found that small daily portions of dark chocolate with added natural polyphenols from extra virgin olive oil was associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile,” Dr. Di Stefano said. “Our study suggests that extra virgin olive oil might be a good food additive to help preserve our 'repairing cells', the EPC."
The results of the study were recently presented at the European Society of Cardiologists Congress. Click here to read more.
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