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Cocoa powder and dark chocolate can help improve blood circulation, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The Swiss group, Barry Callebaut, the world’s largest maker of chocolate products, which supplies food companies such as Nestle and Hershey with cocoa and chocolate products, said on Tuesday that it had provided evidence to EFSA that eating 10g of dark chocolate or its equivalent in cocoa that were high in flavanols helped blood flow.

If the European Commission signs off on the EFSA ruling, the company and its customers would have the right to use the health claim on packaging for products such as chocolate drinks, cereal bars and biscuits, the company said.

“As the first company receiving such a health claim, we see new market potential both for us and for our customers,” Chief Executive Juergen Steinemann said in a statement.

For the clinical studies it conducted to back up the claim, Barry Callebaut said it used a special process to make cocoa products that maintains the flavanols, which are usually mostly destroyed during conventional chocolate-making.

In an opinion posted on the EFSA website, a scientific panel concluded that a cause and effect relationship had been established between the consumption of cocoa flavanols and the maintenance of normal vasodilation, which aids blood flow.

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A string of scientific studies in recent years have shown the potential for health benefits from eating chocolate. Research last year suggested it might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease.

The European Union has been clamping down on health claims for food products, approving only some 200 out of over 2 500 applications earlier this year and giving food companies until the end of 2012 to remove any rejected claims.

 

1. Chocolate decreases stroke risk

A Swedish study found that eating more than 45 grams of chocolate per week—about two bars worth—led to a 20 percent decrease in stroke risk among women. Chocolate contains flavonoids, whose antioxidant properties help fight strokes.

2. Chocolate reduces the likelihood of a heart attack

Other studies show that eating chocolate prevents blood clots, which in turn reduces the risk of heart attacks. Blood platelets clump together more slowly in chocolate eaters.

3. Chocolate protects against blood inflammation

Eat one Hershey’s dark chocolate bar per week, and your risk of heart disease will decrease, About 6.7 grams of dark chocolate per day keeps the blood inflammation-inducing proteins away.

4. Chocolate reduces the risk of diabetes

The Italians know a thing or two about good eating.And a small study from the University of L’Aquila, in Italy, found that eating chocolate increase insulin sensitivity which reduces the risk of diabetes.

5. Chocolate improves blood flow

A fortnight of chocolate face-stuffing, they found, sped up blood flow through their subject’s middle cerebral arteries. In other words, more chocolate means more blood to your brain.

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