Cardiovascular disease is the leading determinant of mortality and morbidity in women. Functional foods are attracting interest as potential regulators of the susceptibility to disease. Supported by epidemiological evidence, chocolate has emerged as a possible modulator of cardiovascular risk. Chocolate, or cocoa as the natural source, contains flavanols, a subclass of flavonoids. The latter years have witnessed an increasing number of experimental and clinical studies that suggest a protective effect of chocolate against atherogenesis. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and endothelial function define three biological mechanisms that have shown sensitivity to chocolate. Moreover, the consumption of chocolate has been involved in the protective modulation of blood pressure, the lipid profile, the activation of platelets, and the sensitivity to insulin. Dark chocolate seems more protective than milk or white chocolate. Despite this array of benefits, there is a lack of well designed clinical studies demonstrating cardiovascular benefit of chocolate. The high caloric content of chocolate, particularly of some less pure forms, imposes caution before recommending uncontrolled consumption.
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