Cocoa and Nitric Oxide Synthesis

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All the more reason to treat your sweet tooth. As it turns out, enjoying your daily dose of chocolate can ease the nerves and calm the heart, quite literally. A new Harvard study only bears good news to all chocolate junkies around the world as it confirms that treating yourself to a small square of chocolate everyday significantly improves blood flow and lowers pressure.

The study which analyzed 24 chocolate-centered studies that involved 1,106 volunteers was formally made public at the American Heart Association’s science session on cardiovascular disease. Essentially, the study reports that dark chocolate which has at least 50%-70% cocoa has the ability to consistently lower blood pressure, especially of people who are afflicted with hypertension.

The flavanols that are found in unsweetened chocolate are reported to stimulate the release of a chemical compound known as nitric oxide that efficiently dilates and thereby relaxes blood vessels. This, in effect, results to a significantly improved blood flow.

Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide or nitrogen oxide is among the more crucial biochemicals in maintaining a healthy body. Everyone REQUIRES nitric oxide to carry out many of the natural processes of the body. NO is basically a necessary free radical that is central to intercellular information transfer. Physiologically, it helps in keeping the blood vessels dilated, allowing for a more efficient blood flow, oxygen transfer, and nutrient distribution.

Nitric oxide is crucial to improving blood-oxygen circulation. As such, it has gained tremendous popularity in terms of being an active ingredient in many pre-workout products in the market today.

Nitric Oxide is as natural as any biochemical in the body. The human body has the ability to naturally manufacture nitric oxide – however, unsupplemented nitric oxide levels are usually insufficient when the body undergoes more adaptive and competitive physical activity such as in bodybuilding and athletics. The body manufactures nitric oxide by breaking down the amino acid arginine. As such, supplementation of arginine has become among the more popular ways of boosting nitric oxide levels.

Effect on Athletic Performance

Enhanced nitric oxide levels, more often than not, paves the way to better athletic performance. The muscles are able to function better, handle physical stress longer, and endure higher physical stress in longer durations when supplied with sufficient levels of oxygen-rich blood.

Also, one of the main reasons nitric oxide supplementation is popular in the bodybuilding and athletic community is that it has the ability to stimulate the production and release of growth hormones, especially when the body is subjected to, and after, intense physical workouts.

Apart from its very pronounced anti-inflammatory abilities, among the many other things that make nitric oxide ideal in competitive physical training is its ability to efficiently increase the rate at which the body repairs damage tissues and alleviate post-workout muscle soreness.

Improving cholesterol

dark chocolate

Because, eating chocolates would likely cause you to put on extra pounds, it is still recommended that you eat it in moderation. In relations to this, among the suggestions made by researchers is to substitute dark chocolate to any high calorie sweets that are part of your diet.

Additionally, the Harvard study also reports that dark chocolate appears to improve cholesterol levels as well. Harvard researchers have found evidence that suggests that flavanols found in dark chocolate actively decrease LDL, which is considered as bad cholesterol in the body, while improving HDL, otherwise known as good cholesterol.

In addition to this, the co-author of the study Dr. Ding of Harvard Medical School also notes that contrary to popular belief, chocolate actually boosts the body’s insulin sensitivity which makes it especially good in preventing diabetes.

Although not the first of its kind, the study now joins the growing number of chocolate-related studies that explore the many health benefits of flavanol antioxidants that are most commonly found in cocoa, the main ingredient of chocolate.

Eat in Moderation!

A word of caution before you start thinking that you can grow healthier by stuffing your face with dark chocolate all day long. So far, chocolate-related studies such as the Harvard research only accounts for the short term health effects of cocoa flavanols. As even dark chocolate is typically high in fat, sugar, and calories, scientists are still unsure of its long term effect.

Because eating chocolates is likely to cause you to put on extra weight, it is still recommended that you eat it in moderation. In relation to this researchers suggest that it is best to substitute high calorie sweets in your diet with dark chocolate so that instead of adding fat, you’re replacing it with a better form.

Also, note that like all other things, munching on dark chocolate is only truly healthy when you have an apple on one hand and a pair on running shoes on strapped on your feet – which is to say that dark chocolate only works for your body with the proper diet and healthy amount of exercise.

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