Cocoa Can Ease Walking Pain for People With Peripheral Artery Disease

March 2, 2020 Updated: March 20, 2020
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If you’re suffering from peripheral artery disease and looking for some relief from the painful, limiting condition, then here’s a great one for you.

A recent study has shown that a daily cup of hot chocolate can ease pain, improve walking distance, boost blood flow, and enhance muscle health and function.

But I’m not talking about the steamy, thick milk chocolate with marshmallows sitting on top. That stuff won’t help. To get the benefits, you’ll need to reach for dark chocolate options with at least 85 percent pure cacao.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a major cause of disability in people over 55. It’s when blood vessels in the legs narrow, limiting the supply of blood available to the lower body. This is a problem because your legs have big muscles and a heavy workload that require plenty of oxygenated blood.

There are a limited number of therapies that can help treat the condition, and it seems like hot chocolate might be one of them.

Cacao is a great source of antioxidant compounds called flavanols. One, in particular, epicatechin, has been shown to have a unique effect on blood pressure. It can relax veins and allow blood to flow more freely.

The small study looked at 44 people, at an average age of 72, all with PAD. For six months, they were given a mixture of warm milk and a packet of cocoa with epicatechin or a placebo. They drank it three times per day.

At the end of the study, people given cocoa showed a 20 percent improvement in blood flow, muscle health, and function, and were also able to walk further in a six-minute test than the control group.

Cacao, of course, is not the only source of flavanols. But it might be the most enjoyable (if you like the bitter taste of dark chocolate). Other foods with it include green veggies, berries, apples, and tea.

If you suffer from PAD, indulge yourself with a hot chocolate each day. It’s unlikely to lead to weight gain—just remember it needs to be at least 85 percent cacao and free of sugars and other additives.

Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s of forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Andre is a journalist for BelMarraHealthwhich first published this article.