November 15, 2006
Chocolate For Lower Blood Clot Risk?

I got half way through reading this report about health benefits of dark chocolate and had to go get a couple of pieces of dark chocolate to eat. This happens every time yet another study comes out that documents the health benefits of the flavonoid compounds found in chocolate. Now, that I'm on a chocolate high I'm thrilled to pass along this information. Might chocolate work to lower blood clot and heart attack risk?

"What these chocolate 'offenders' taught us is that the chemical in cocoa beans has a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing platelet clumping, which can be fatal if a clot forms and blocks a blood vessel, causing a heart attack," says Diane Becker, M.P.H., Sc.D., a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Becker cautions that her work is not intended as a prescription to gobble up large amounts of chocolate candy, which often contains diet-busting amounts of sugar, butter and cream. But as little as 2 tablespoons a day of dark chocolate - the purest form of the candy, made from the dried extract of roasted cocoa beans - may be just what the doctor ordered.

Parenthetically, Mars claims they've changed their chocolate processing process to retain more flavonoids than typical chocolate processing techniques retain. So Dove Dark is probably a great way to get the flavonoids.

Regular chocolate eaters have blood that clots more slowly.

In the study, 139 people Becker - whom Becker somewhat tongue in cheek calls "chocolate offenders" - were disqualified from a much larger study looking at the effects of aspirin on blood platelets. The Genetic Study of Aspirin Responsiveness (GeneSTAR) was conducted at Hopkins from June 2004 to November 2005 and enrolled more than 500 men and 700 women participants nationwide.

Shortly before aspirin dosing began for the subjects, they were told to stay on a strict regimen of exercise and to refrain from smoking or using foods and drinks known to affect platelet activity. These included caffeinated drinks, wine, grapefruit juice - and chocolate.

The non-compliers - who admitted to eating chocolate - were a diverse group who got their flavonoid "fix" from a variety of sources, including chocolate bars, cups of hot cocoa, grapes, black or green tea, and strawberries. And while they were excluded from the aspirin study, Becker and her team scoured their blood results for chocolate's effect on blood platelets, which the body recycles on a daily basis.

When platelet samples from both groups were run through a mechanical blood vessel system designed to time how long it takes for the platelets to clump together in a hair-thin plastic tube, the chocolate lovers were found to be less reactive, on average taking 130 seconds to occlude the system. Platelets from those who stayed away from chocolate as instructed clotted faster, at 123 seconds.

In another key test of urine for waste products of platelet activity, primarily urinary thromboxane (11-dehydro-thromboxane B2), scientists found that chocolate eaters showed less activity and waste products on average, at 177 nanograms per millimol of creatinine, versus an average of 287 nanograms per millimol of creatinine in the group that abstained.

Proanthocyanin compounds might be particularly beneficial. Lou Pagnucco has recently pointed me to a USDA document that places cocoa beans as highest in proanthocyanins followed by sorghum bran (PDF format). Have you ever seen sorghum bran for sale? Cinnamon added to apple sauce ups its proanthocyanin content even higher. Berries are good sources. Check out the charts in the document.

The darker and less sweetened the chocolate the more potent it is in health effects. Also, eat more berries and cherries. They are probably the most beneficial fruits.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 November 15 10:50 PM  Aging Diet Studies

Lou Pagnucco said at November 16, 2006 8:31 PM:

Chocolate appears to be the premier antioxidant.

See: "The Case for Chocolate" at:

Dr Jane Karlsson said at January 19, 2007 7:07 AM:

Hi Randall,

Did you know that chocolate is very high in copper? Copper inhibits platelet aggregation. It also repairs blood vessels (lysyl oxidase).

One of the two top copper people, Leslie Klevay, suggested many years ago that heart disease is caused by a too-high zinc-copper ratio. You may be surprised to hear that homocysteine metabolism is controlled by copper (S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase is copper-dependent, and the B12-dependent enzyme methionine synthase has recently been found to require copper as well), which could go a long way towards explaining the link between homocysteine and both heart disease and Alzheimer's.

What did you think of the table from the copper-transfat paper by Martha Morris I sent you?

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