Dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil is associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile, according to a new study by the University of Pisa in Italy.
The researchers tested the association between consumption of dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil with atherosclerosis progression in healthy people.
The 26 volunteers all had at least three cardiovascular risk factors (smoking, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, or family history of cardiovascular disease). They each received 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for 28 days. For 14 consecutive days it contained 10 per cent extra virgin olive oil and for 14 consecutive days it contained 2.5 per cent Panaia red apple. The two types of chocolate were given in a random order.
Urine and blood samples were collected before and after the trial. After 28 days, the researchers found that the chocolate enriched with olive oil was associated with significantly increased EPC levels (cells which play a role in the regeneration of the lining of blood vessels) and decreased carnitine and hippurate levels.
Olive oil-enriched chocolate was associated with significantly increased high-density lipoprotein (so-called ‘good cholesterol) and decreased blood pressure.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Rossella Di Stefano, said: ‘A healthy diet is known to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Fruits and vegetables exert their protective effects through plant polyphenols, which are found in cocoa, olive oil, and apples. Research has found that the Italian Panaia red apple has very high levels of polyphenols and antioxidants.’
‘We found that small daily portions of dark chocolate with added natural polyphenols from extra virgin olive oil was associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile. Our study suggests that extra virgin olive oil might be a good food additive to help preserve our ‘repairing cells’, the EPC.’