Dark chocolate may be good for liver patients--study
by Neharika Sabharwal - April 19, 2010
Adding to the multiple health benefits of dark chocolate is the latest research, which indicates that cocoa-rich dark chocolate protects patients from complications associated with cirrhosis of the liver.
A daily dose of dark chocolate reduces damage to the blood vessels of cirrhotic patients and also lowers blood pressure
in the liver.
According to Spanish researchers, the antioxidants [compounds that protect against cell damage inflicted by molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are a major cause of disease and aging.] called flavanols found in dark chocolate can reduce the spike in abdominal blood pressure that occurs after eating.
This rise in pressure after eating can often reach dangerous levels in patients suffering from cirrhosis of the liver sometimes even leading to ruptured blood vessels.
Prof Mark Thursz, Vice Secretary of EASL and Professor of Hepatology at Imperial College London, said, "As well as advanced technologies and high science, it is important to explore the potential of alternative sources which can contribute to the overall wellbeing of a patient.
"This study shows a clear association between eating dark chocolate and portal hypertension (high blood pressure in the liver) and demonstrates the potential importance of improvements in the management of cirrhotic patients, to minimize the onset and impact of end stage liver disease and its associated mortality risks."
Benefits of dark chocolate assessed in 21 cirrhotic patients
In a bid to determine the potential benefits of dark chocolate for people suffering from liver cirrhosis, the researchers enrolled 21 patients with end stage liver disease.
The participants were administered a standard liquid diet.
10 patients received a liquid meal containing dark chocolate while the remaining 11 patients were administered white chocolate which contains no cocoa flavonoids that are beneficial for health.
Various measurements including arterial pressure and portal blood flow were taken before the meal and 30 minutes afterwards.
Findings of the study
Both the groups exhibited increased blood pressure in the abdomen [between the chest and the hips that contains the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.] . However, the researchers found that the group which ate dark experienced an average blood-pressure increase of 24 per cent whereas those administered white chocolate saw their blood pressure spike by 34 per cent.
The study shows that eating dark chocolate is a natural option for patients with cirrhosis of the liver that can avert fatal complications of the disease.
The study has been presented at the International Liver Congress TM 2010, the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Liver in Vienna, Austria.
A little about liver cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of long-term damage. It refers to a disease in which normal liver cells are replaced by scar tissue caused by various factors, including hepatitis infection and alcohol abuse.
The damage keeps the important organ from working as it should. The disease leads to abnormalities in the liver's ability to handle toxins and blood flow, causing internal bleeding, kidney failure, mental confusion, coma, body fluid accumulation, and frequent infections.
Symptoms include yellowing of the skin, itching, and fatigue.