Chocolate can have enormous health benefits (myhealthyfood, 2012). This is something that most people view as extremely welcome news, as chocolate has the additional advantage of tasting very good to most people; before industrial farming, it was a luxury product unattainable for the average person. Chocolate is beneficial in a number of ways; entirely aside from any biological mechanism of operation, chocolate is associated by many people with relaxation and comfort, meaning that consuming chocolate can be an effective way of reducing stress levels. Dark chocolate in particular is beneficial, because although cocoa solids contain biologically helpful chemicals, their effect is somewhat counterbalanced by the high sugar and milk fats content of milk chocolate.
In particular, organic dark chocolate is beneficial — more so than ordinary dark chocolate one might find in a supermarket — because organic chocolate tends to be high in antioxidants (chemicals which are suggested to be responsible for the beneficial health effects of a number of foods and drinks, including red wine) (Michael Holm, 2012). Dark chocolate is especially healthful because it has a high concentration of polyphenols, which are effective in preventing cancer and many degenerative diseases (Gupta, Kagliwal, & Singhal, 2013). So, for the purposes of this paper, think of dark chocolate as any chocolate that is greater than 65% polyphenol-rich.
Dark chocolate can be especially beneficial to the circulatory system (Michael Holm, 2012). In a video published by youtuber Michael Holm, Dr. Pederson discusses the possibility of regular dark chocolate consumption reducing arterial blockages. This is important because it suggests that as people age, they can stave off one of the most common negative health consequences of aging by consuming dark chocolate, which is not a difficult adjustment for most people. Arterial blockages can reduce circulation, raise blood pressure (or lower it, depending on the circumstances), and even cause heart attacks. Prevention of arterial blockages is consequently one of the most promising beneficial qualities of dark chocolate, at least as it relates to the circulatory system.
Dark chocolate can also lower blood pressure. Again, this is especially beneficial for aging and elderly populations, many of whom suffer from unacceptably high blood pressure. Importantly, though, dark chocolate does not seem to work in the same way that blood thinners do. It is not likely to reduce the blood pressure of someone whose blood pressure is already at a healthy level, making dark chocolate consumption part of a relatively safe strategy for managing one’s blood pressure.
One of the most important cardiovascular consequences of dark chocolate consumption is not even directly related to the heart: regular dark chocolate consumption can reduce the risk of strokes. It is probable that this is because dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain (Michael Holm, 2012). On the topic of increased cerebral blood flow, it seems plausible that this could also contribute to improved cognition in aging individuals, further counteracting some of the negative effects of aging.
Dark chocolate is far from a wonder drug; it should not be used instead of blood thinners for those with dangerously high blood pressures, nor instead of surgery for those with arterial blockages. However, regular consumption of dark chocolate can make the cardiovascular system significantly more healthy, decreasing the likelihood that those scenarios will ever arise. Dark chocolate also has a significant benefit not shared by many other preventative strategies, like regular exercise: it is low-effort and highly enjoyable for the majority of the population, making individuals more likely to stick to a routine of eating dark chocolate. For these reasons, regular moderate dark chocolate consumption is recommended for any healthy individual who wishes to ensure that their heart and circulatory system remain healthy.