A Swiss chocolatier named Marc Widmer, from Lucerne, Switzerland created a herbal chocolate which can cure menstrual cramps in women. [Representational image]Kricket/Flickr

People with Peripheral artery disease (PAD), benefit from eating dark chocolates, says a new study. Researchers found that foods rich with polyphenols, a compound found in cocoa, helped PAD patients walk longer and farther.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition when the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries reduces blood flow to different parts of the body, mainly to the limbs. The condition can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. Some of the factors that contribute to the disease include smoking, obesity, ageing, family history, high BP, high cholesterol and diabetes.

The risk of getting PAD can be reduced by making some lifestyle changes including following a healthy lifestyle and diet and by avoiding smoking and some cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine. Previous studies have also shown that eating a Mediterranean diet helps in lowering the risk of peripheral artery disease.

The new study included 20 people with PAD, aged between 60 and 78. During the study, the participants were asked to walk on a treadmill before and nearly two hours after eating either dark chocolate or milk chocolate. The dark chocolate contained 85 percent of cocoa, while milk chocolate had a low cocoa content (below 30 percent).

Researchers found that consumption of dark chocolate improved ability of the participants to walk unassisted. The patients also walked 12 meters/39 feet (11 percent) farther and 17 seconds longer (15 percent) after eating the dark chocolate. Consumption of milk chocolate was not associated with any such improvements.

Even though modest, the developments in the study can help improve PAD patients' quality of life, the authors said.

The high levels of nitric oxide gas produced in the body after eating dark chocolates helped this occurrence, according to the authors. Nitric oxide that is known to improve blood flow, dilates peripheral arteries and makes patients capable of walking independently.

"Polyphenol-rich nutrients could represent a new therapeutic strategy to counteract cardiovascular complications," senior author of the study Francesco Violi from the Sapienza University of Rome, said in a news release.

Researchers recommended the need to conduct more studies before bringing their findings into practice.

However, according to the American Heart Association, eating too many chocolates is also not a good idea .They pointed out that a normal chocolate bar contains 94 calories.

Apart from dark chocolates, polyphenols can be found in several other food items. Following are some foods rich in polyphenols:

  • Spices - cloves, star anise, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric powder
  • Vegetables- spinach, broccoli, red onion
  • Nuts – almonds, chestnut, walnuts, hazelnut, pecan nut
  • Fruits- peach, apples, lemon, apricot and pomegranate, berries, prune, plum, cherry, grapes
  • Flaxseeds, olives, canola oil, cocoa, red wine, tea (both black and green), soybean