Dark chocolate with olive oil

There’s a new study almost every month highlighting the benefits of dark chocolate, but now new research is suggesting dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil is associated with an improved cardiovascular risk profile.

Presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress earlier this week, the study by the University of Pisa, Italy, tested the association between consumption of dark chocolate enriched with extra virgin olive oil or Panaia red apple with atherosclerosis progression in healthy individuals with cardiovascular risk factors.

The randomised crossover study included 26 volunteers (14 men, 12 women) with at least three cardiovascular risk factors (smoking, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, or family history of cardiovascular disease) who received 40g of dark chocolate daily for 28 days. For 14 consecutive days it contained 10% extra virgin olive oil and for 14 consecutive days it contained 2.5% Panaia red apple. The two types of chocolate were given in random order.

Progression of atherosclerosis was assessed by metabolic changes (levels of carnitine and hippurate), lipid profile, blood pressure and levels of circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs). EPCs are critical for vascular repair and maintenance of endothelial function.

Urine and blood samples were collected at baseline and after the intervention. Urine samples were analysed by proton nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy for endogenous metabolites. Circulating EPC levels were assessed with flow cytometry. Smoking status, body mass index, blood pressure, glycaemia and lipid profile were also monitored.

After 28 days, the researchers found the chocolate enriched with olive oil was associated with significantly increased EPC levels and decreased carnitine and hippurate levels, compared to both baseline and after consumption of apple enriched chocolate. Olive oil enriched chocolate was associated with significantly increased high-density lipoprotein (good) cholesterol and decreased blood pressure, compared to baseline. There was a non-significant decrease in triglyceride levels with apple enriched chocolate.

Lead author Dr Rossella Di Stefano, a cardiologist at the University of Pisa, notes, “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.”

As we wave goodbye to what feels like a very quick August, September marks the start of a busy few months for the Confectionery Production team.

As well as pressing our bumper Supplier Profile issue, we’ll be visiting and reporting on various trade shows, including PPMA in Birmingham, UK, as well as Bell Publishing’s very own Tea & Coffee World Cup in Singapore, which is now also incorporating cocoa. We’ll also be at Gulfood Manufacturing in October. A show preview will be appearing in our October issue so if you’d like to be featured in this then please let me know as soon as possible.

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