However, one study in people with high blood pressure showed no effect, so take all this with a grain of salt (8Trusted Source).
4. Raises HDL and Protects LDL From Oxidation
Consuming dark chocolate can improve several important risk factors for heart disease.
In a controlled study, cocoa powder was found to significantly decrease oxidized LDL cholesterol in men. It also increased HDL and lowered total LDL for those with high cholesterol (9Trusted Source).
Oxidized LDL means that the LDL ("bad" cholesterol) has reacted with free radicals.
This makes the LDL particle itself reactive and capable of damaging other tissues, such as the lining of the arteries in your heart.
It makes perfect sense that cocoa lowers oxidized LDL. It contains an abundance of powerful antioxidants that do make it into the bloodstream and protect lipoproteins against oxidative damage (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Dark chocolate can also reduce insulin resistance, which is another common risk factor for many diseases like heart disease and diabetes (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
5. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
The compounds in dark chocolate appear to be highly protective against the oxidation of LDL.
In the long term, this should cause much less cholesterol to lodge in the arteries, resulting in a lower risk of heart disease
In fact, several long-term observational studies show a fairly drastic improvement.
In a study of 470 elderly men, cocoa was found to reduce the risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 50% over a 15 year period (15Trusted Source).
Another study revealed that eating chocolate two or more times per week lowered the risk of having calcified plaque in the arteries by 32%. Eating chocolate less frequently had no effect (16Trusted Source).
Yet another study showed that eating dark chocolate more than 5 times per week lowered the risk of heart disease by 57% (17Trusted Source).
Of course, these three studies are observational studies, so can’t prove that it was the chocolate that reduced the risk.
However, since the biological process is known (lower blood pressure and oxidized LDL), it is plausible that regularly eating dark chocolate may reduce the risk of heart disease.
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