Chocolate Can Improve Blood Flow and Brain Function

May 24, 2013 at 2:00 am 1 comment

By Chad Upton

The Kuna Indians of the Panama Islands consume large quantities of cocoa, even when compared to those living on mainland Panama.


A study by Norman K Hollenberg, MD and PhD of Harvard Medical School, found that the islanders have astonishingly low occurrences of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. In fact, death from heart disease is a 1280% higher risk for mainlanders. What is in the chocolate the islanders are consuming?

The type of cocoa they consume is high in flavanols, a compound found in some tea, cocoa, chocolate, fruit, vegetables and wine.

To identify if flavanols were in fact the magic ingredient, a controlled study followed the discovery of the islander’s health. Hollenberg administered flavanol rich cocoa to participants over the age of 50. A “striking blood flow response” was detected over a number of weeks. The improvements in blood vessel function were observed with an increase in nitric oxide in the blood, which helps keep blood vessels limber and dilated.

The additional blood flow to the brain can assist with healthy brain function and cognition. This can have learning and memory benefits in aging brains as well as those with sleep deprivation or fatigue.

Dark chocolate typically has more flavanols than milk chocolate, but the quanitity of flavanols is not typically indicated on most chocolate products. Mars Inc has specifically made products for people interested in high quantities of flavanols:

  1. CocoaVia (Drink Mix)
  2. goodnessknows (Snack Bar)
  3. Dove Dark Chocolate (Chocolate Bar)

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Sources: EurekAlert!, mars, amazon

Entry filed under: Food and Drink, Health and Beauty. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Cedric B  |  December 19, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    We actually do a lot of sailboats (tours) in San Blas, and you’re right : Kunas eat a lot of chocolate !..
    Cedric, from


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