10 February 2011

Why dark chocolate is good for her heart

Listen up, men! On this Valentine's Day, why not surprise your special lady with chocolates that are healthier for her heart? Dark chocolate eaten in moderate amounts weekly is associated with improved cardiovascular fitness in women, research suggests.

Scientists are only beginning to understand why dark chocolate is heart healthy, but a new study offers this explanation—its rich content of cocoa antioxidant compounds, called polyphenols, could enhance activity of special proteins called sterol regulatory element binding proteins (SREBPs), which are involved in cholesterol metabolism.

These activated SREBPs then bind to genes on DNA (sterol regulatory element sequences) that boost liver production of another protein called apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1), which is the major protein component of HDL "good" cholesterol.

Correspondingly, cocoa polyphenols also decreased production of another protein in the liver called apolipoprotein B (ApoB), which is the major protein component of LDL "bad" cholesterol. The study also showed cocoa polyphenols induced activity of LDL receptors, allowing more cholesterol to be removed from the bloodstream.

The scientist’s findings—suggesting that polyphenols in dark chocolate may help maintain higher “good” cholesterol levels and lower "bad" cholesterol levels—were published in the February issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society.

The researchers write, "As cholesterol metabolism is known to be regulated by several different mechanisms, it is possible that cacao polyphenols may act on multiple pathways as a regulatory receptor agonist or ligand, similar to other plant polyphenols."

So, what's the message you give with dark chocolate? Romance, of course – but with a healthy twist for your sweetheart's heart.

Source: Yasuda A, Natsume M, Osakabe N, Kawahata K, Koga J. Cacao Polyphenols Influence the Regulation of Apolipoprotein in HepG2 and Caco2 Cells. J Agric Food Chem 2011.

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