Chocolate Improves Circulation

Maylin Rodriguez Paez RN

It’s too bad we’ve been led to believe that chocolate is simply “unhealthy.”

Through the years, people have learned to associate it with junk food, candy, and desserts almost exclusively.

Instead, we should really think of it first and foremost as a health food.

Why? Well, aside from these reasons, a recent study found that chocolate can actually enhance circulation in certain people. Pretty interesting, right?

Dark Chocolate Increases Maximal Walking Distance by 11%

In a small study, scientists recruited 20 patients who suffer from peripheral arterial disease.1 This condition limits blood flow to the limbs during exercise, causing pain and cramping. It also limits the ability to perform exercise.

The subjects were randomly assigned to receive 40 grams of dark chocolate (greater than 85% cocoa) or milk chocolate and were asked to walk on a treadmill about two hours after eating the chocolate.

Blood samples were taken to measure levels of antioxidants, oxidative stress, and markers of nitric oxide activity.1

Compared to the milk chocolate group, participants who consumed the dark chocolate had higher levels of antioxidants in their blood and were able to walk 11% farther and 15% longer on the treadmill.

They also had decreased markers of oxidative stress and higher levels of nitrate in their blood, a measure of nitric oxide activity.1

Dark Chocolate Reduces Oxidative Stress

Chocolate polyphenols support blood vessel dilation by reducing oxidative stress. They also increase the production of nitric oxide, a gas that allows blood vessels to dilate.2

People afflicted with peripheral arterial disease have nitric oxide deficiencies.

In addition dark chocolate reduces platelet adhesion, meaning it makes platelets less “sticky.” This, in turn, enhances circulation and eases the symptoms related to peripheral arterial disease.3

Dark chocolate contains a greater concentration of polyphenols than milk chocolate, which could be the reason the milk chocolate group did not experience significant benefits in this study.4, 5

Also, the milk proteins in chocolate have been shown to bind to cocoa polyphenols, limiting their absorption and activity.4

The Bottom Line

Beyond a pleasurable dessert, healthy chocolate is a medicinal food worth eating.4

But be careful though: chocolate is often rich in calories. Make sure you buy the dark varieties with no added sugar or milk.

If you can stand the bitter taste, 100% pure cocoa nibs are by far your best bet!


  1. J Am Heart Assoc. 2014 Jul 2;3(4). 
  2. JAMA. 2007 Jul 4;298(1):49-60. 
  3. Circulation. 2007 Nov 20;116(21):2376-82. 
  4. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2009 Nov;28(4):482-8. 
  5. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;81(3):611-4.


Unknown said...

cocoa is also useful?

Stephen in Birmingham said...

My fiancé actually told me about a similar study last year. I've never been a fan of dark chocolate, but this certainly makes it seem more appealing. Apparently this type of cocoa has the flavanols which helps the production of nitric oxide in the body.

Life Extension said...

Stephen in Birmingham - This study definitely makes chocolate definitely more appealing.

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